FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Fort Myers City Council will decide Monday night whether it wants to make major changes to the city's affordable housing trust fund. This expansion will allow more people to qualify for the program and give renters a place to call home.
“We're having a hard time finding something that's within our budget,” said Christina Staszak, who is looking for a rental property.
Fox 4 senior reporter Caitlin Knapp last spoke with Staszak in June 2023, when she covered the same issue. Since then, her rental prices haven't fallen enough to fit her budget.
“You might find some places for $1,200 a month, but that's the same as something efficient owned by someone else,” she said.
The City of Fort Myers is considering closing the price gap through changes to the fund, which currently helps property owners manage costs by lowering rents for families.
“It's possible for $1,000 to $1,200 a month, but preferably that includes utilities,” Staszak explained.
Proposed changes include increasing the area median income threshold from 100% to 120%. In other words, more people could soon be eligible for the program.
According to the city's Department of Community Development, a family of four with an annual income of $102,120 would qualify for 120% of the benefits, and 80% would qualify for $85,120.
“Wages aren't going up, but the cost of living and overall rent is going up,” Staszak said.
The Department of Community Development also says that if changes are made, 75% of the funding must be set aside for households making 80% or less of the area median income.
Another proposed change concerns money. It could help people with rent, utilities, three months of unpaid rent, and move-in costs. This is important to Staszak.
“I haven't found affordable housing yet, because it's very difficult to find something that doesn't require security at the beginning, end, and is pet-friendly,” she said.
A city spokesperson told Fox 4 that 59 families applied for and were approved for a portion of the $4.3 million available under the fund, which was established in January 2022.
“If you qualify, you would definitely be interested in a program like this,” Staszak said.
Staszak said he is considering moving out of the area if he doesn't find anything, but stressed he won't give up.
“I definitely would have cried. I would have just cried with the joy of being able to go out on my own and do my own thing, my own place, my own space,” she said.
The city wants to emphasize that this program is for people who live in Fort Myers and does not give preferential treatment to city employees.
To learn more about the fund, click here.