By WINK News

Faith leaders in Southwest Florida want to help others find more affordable housing options during a time when folks might be struggling to make ends meet due to the coronavirus pandemic. It’s something that could also curb crime in neighborhoods.

Lee Interfaith for Empowerment wants to start an affordable housing trust fund to open up thousands of units that would be accessible to those struggling to make ends meet.

Lee Interfaith is asking the City of Fort Myers to give $3 million a year for the next 10 years for affordable housing for those struggling to get by.

“Improves crime rates. Crime goes down,” said Pastor William Glover of Mount Hemron Ministries. “It improves property values, which makes the city a better place to live.”

Lee is pushing the city to establish an affordable housing trust fund to help those who make less than 80 percent of the area median income. Pastor Glover says he sees the need in his own congregation.

“It’s replayed time and time again, whether it’s the single mother of three who can’t afford housing or a recent college graduate who has to room together to afford housing or essential workers who are on a three-year wait list for subsidized housing or apartments,” Glover said.

Lee Interfaith says the city’s current plan is for workforce housing. They say that targets those who at or above the area median income. The group presented its ideas to the city this week. Now, faith leaders are hoping the city takes action.

“We need 7,000 units,” Rev. Rickey Leon Anderson Sr. said. “If they don’t do something, it’s going to get even worse.”

April Perkins in Fort Myers says finding affordable housing has always been a major struggle for her.

“I do make a little more than minimum wage,” Perkins said. “But it’s still a struggle for me monthly to do the rent.”

Perkins’s kids no longer live with her, but she can remember needing to ask for more time to pay her rent when they did.

“That’s kind of embarrassing when you have to do that throughout the whole year,” Perkins said.

Alison Carville in Fort Myers is struggling to find housing that is both affordable and accessible for her to move around in a wheel chair.

“It should be the norm of like, ‘OK, here is the baseline for accessibility everywhere,” Carville said.

Lee Interfaith for Empowerment says it already has developers on board who are willing to contribute to affordable housing efforts. They also expect the trust fund to grow from private donors, state funds and federal funds.

Fort Myers City Council says it will research the idea and see what other cities are doing.

View the original story here.