As St. Petersburg continues to flourish, a big issue emerging among voters in this election year is affordable housing.
“No one should have to pay 50 percent of their net income for a rental home or apartment,” says District 6 City Council candidate Jim Jackson. “One will hear the figure of $250,000 tossed around for affordable housing. Few in the workforce can afford that. “
Jackson says it’s an issue that he hears about often while knocking on doors and communicating with voters in his district, and he decries real estate speculators buying up vacant lots and boarded up homes and sitting on them as their value accrues.
“The residents of the neighborhood are shut out of the process,” he says. “It doesn’t have to be that way.”
“The quickest way to increase the number of homes for families is to renovate a solid cement block home,” he says.
Jackson cites the Rebates for Renovation program introduced by Councilman Karl Nurse in 2013 as a way the city can work to remedy the problem. That program provides an economic incentive for private investment in a targeted area by providing a rebate on the cost of specific building improvements to the owner of the residential property.
“There are hundreds of vacant lots in the city,” he says. “A family can buy a 3/2 1250 sq ft home for 120,000. With a decent down payment and a credit score of 450 a family would be paying $501 for taxes and insurance,” Jackson says. “That is 50 percent less than a two-bedroom rental in the same area. The family has a home to call their own, raises the value of the neighborhood and provides capital to the family to leverage other opportunities.”
A longtime educator and Democratic Party political activist, Jackson says it’s important for the city to move quickly on the issue before real estate speculators buy up more vacant lots and empty homes. Noting how the City Council has passed a motion to allocate $15 million in the next batch of funding deriving from Penny for Pinellas, he says the city has to move quickly.
“We must make St Petersburg a place where everyone has an opportunity to flourish,” he says.
Jackson is one of ten candidates vying to succeed Nurse on City Council this year.
On Thursday, interested citizens will have the first opportunity to size all of them up in one sitting, as there is a campaign forum scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at the Sunshine Center, 330 5th Street N in St. Petersburg, sponsored by the People’s Budget Review.