Could a Public Housing Authority help St. Johns County?
ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla — As house prices skyrocket, homeownership in St. Johns County is out of reach for many people.
That was even the case for the son of a man who builds homes for a living. So what can be done?
Just three weeks ago, Chris Shee’s son graduated from college.
“I would love for my son to own a home coming out of college,” he said. “It’s a great way to start your investments.”
And Shee knows homes. He builds them for a living with MasterCraft Builder Group. He’s the founder of the company.
So, he crunched the numbers, and it turns out that even the smallest, least expensive kind of house he builds — at cost — now comes to $350,000.
“$350,000 is hard to afford. It’s a real issue,” he told First Coast News.
With that personal insight, Shee and other leaders in St. Johns County are proponents of creating a Public Housing Authority in the area.
Essentially, a public housing authority helps provides affordable housing for low to moderate income families and veterans. Jacksonville has one, but St. Johns County is one of the few areas in the state that does not.
“If we had one in St. Johns, we would be able to grab federal fund and that’s extremely important,” Shee said.
Joe Cone with the St. Johns County Health and Human Services Department said if the county could tap into the federal pockets of money, then vouchers for veterans and families may be provided to help them pay for houses.
Federal funds may also help builders like Shee.
“As a builder, if my cost to build a starter home is $350,000, how the heck can you bring homes on in the 200,000s” Shee asked. “The only way you can do that is with some form of government assistance.”
Shee said he is not a big supporter of government intervention, but “if those funds are available, why not tap into them? Everyone else is and we aren’t.”
Cone said that creating a Public Housing Authority in the St. Johns county area could take months and would be operated similar to a nonprofit.
Many believe it’s the way to help the workforce in St. Johns County, as well as perspective first-time buyers, like Shee’s son, be able to afford a house here.
A discussion of creating a Public Housing Authority in St. Johns County is still in the beginning stages, according to Cone. It would need approval from the County Commission.