Why We Need Workforce Housing

Advocacy & Policy,

Why We Need Workforce Housing 

By: Joshua Goergen, MBA

Southwest Florida has become more than just a vacation or retirement destination. Now, more than ever, people from all over are moving to Southwest Florida to work and raise a family. Through the work of our local leaders, business community, and other keys stakeholders, the region has become an attractive choice for business owners looking to expand or open up shop. While this is great for the economic development of our region, one question seems to be unanswered: Where will our workforce live?  

According to Zillow.com, the typical value of homes in Fort Myers is $336,434. For Naples, that number is $524,557. Making things worse, apartments and other rental units have increased rent by twenty to thirty percent. Young professionals and new families are spending more than fifty percent of their income on housing. This is not sustainable, and it will make it nearly impossible to promote our community and the unique quality of life it has to offer. Our businesses will be unable to attract the much-needed talent they’re looking for while our current workforce may be forced to relocate to regions with cheaper housing options.  

What can Southwest Florida do to help fix the current housing crisis? For starters, as a community, we need to be more accepting of future development and understand that it is necessary for the economic success of the region. Year-round, developers come to local governments with housing projects and new developments, but as soon as the project goes to public comment, a small but vocal group of community members shout it down. They often complain that the region is being overdeveloped, or more growth will crowd our roads, or even a general dislike for the people that will be living in the new housing project. While none of this is acceptable or true, they continue to push an anti-growth message throughout Southwest Florida and in turn, it hurts our economy and the wellbeing of our community.  

Another way we can alleviate some of the ongoing issues with housing affordability is through policy change. We must make sure that the land development code and comprehensive plans in our counties and municipalities encourage the development of many different housing products, increase density allowance, allow for flexibility in zoning and other land use ordinances, and provide for a speedy approval process. It shouldn’t take a developer years to get a workforce housing project off the ground, as the cost of holding land and time is only passed on to the consumer.  

While single family home communities and home ownership are important, we must create unique incentives that enable developers to offer a variety of housing such as high-density multi-family or mixed-use developments. Adequate housing for our workforce is a key ingredient to the region’s economic success. To stay competitive and attractive, we must be willing to think outside the box and challenge the status quo. 

SWFL Inc. is actively working with local elected officials and other key stakeholders within the region to change the way we think about housing within our community. If you would like to learn more about how you can help, please reach out to me at [email protected] or visit our website SWFLinc.com