By Kamal Moragn, Pensacola News Journal

Data from the University of Florida Shimberg Center for Housing Studies reveals that out of every 100 families earning $74,000 a year or less, 62 are paying more than 30% of their income on rent.

Looking at the data, the Rev. Ansley Walker of St. Christopher Episcopal Church never thought about affordable housing until she realized she also fit into that category of people.

“These aren’t the people that aren’t trying and don’t have a job,” Walker said. “These are your teachers and your health care central workers. We’re all struggling. If we don’t have a place to live, then Pensacola won’t be able to function as a city with all these people.”

Monday night, Walker and other members of JUST Pensacola gathered at Blue Wahoos Stadium for the Nehemiah Action Assembly, an event where all Pensacola City Council and Escambia County Commission members were invited to attend and help create affordable housing in Escambia County.

JUST Pensacola, or Justice United Seeking Transformation Pensacola, is an organization made up of 18 congregations throughout Pensacola. It was founded in 2019 to solve critical community problems, with a focus on criminal justice and affordable housing.

At Monday’s event, multiple public officials, including Councilwoman Teniadé Broughton, Commissioner Lumon May, Pensacola Police Department Chief Eric Randall and Councilman Casey Jones, showed up to show support.

Although the officials didn’t delve into specific plans for addressing affordable housing, they all said they’d be willing to work with JUST Pensacola to explore the feasibility of creating an affordable housing trust fund.

A housing trust fund can be established by a municipality to use dedicated ongoing public funding to help support the production of affordable housing and increase opportunities for families and individuals to access decent affordable homes.

According to JUST Pensacola, some 750 municipalities have created trust funds and as a whole, they’ve demonstrated a proven track record of success.

Paul Blackmon, pastor of First Baptist Church of Ferry Pass and vice president of JUST Pensacola, was happy with the presence of elected officials who attended.

“I think it’s great that we had the turnout that we had and the input of the community because what we’re doing this for our community, and this is great for them to show up and show their support,” Blackmon said.

When some of the public officials came onto the stage to declare how they will help with JUST Pensacola’s goal in helping with the affordable housing crisis, some like Councilwoman Ann Hill felt inspired by the crowd of over 100 people who showed up.

“It is an amazing thing to take care of your neighbor and I hope that I can stand up to the task that you have given me here,” Hill said. “And we can help those who are our neighbors, who are in trouble and who can’t find housing.”

The Shimberg Center data shows out of the 10 most common jobs in the Pensacola area, only a registered nurse earns enough to afford a two-bedroom apartment at a fair market rate.

Walker, citing the data, noted a majority of everyday workers have problems finding a home to afford and then posed the question, “Where can they live?”

The next step for JUST Pensacola will be preparing for the stakeholders meeting July 7 to have more discussion.

See original story here.