Affordable housing: Candidates for Jacksonville mayor say how they would address key issue

Affordable housing is expected to be one of the key issues on the minds of voters when they head to the polls to cast their ballots for Jacksonville’s next mayor in 2023.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Affordable housing is expected to be one of the key issues on the minds of voters when they head to the polls to cast their ballots for Jacksonville’s next mayor in 2023.

In a News4JAX survey published on Thursday, more than 19% percent of the people who responded said it was the biggest issue facing Jacksonville right now. It came in second, following crime.,

We wanted to know where the candidates stood on this important issue of affordable house and rent control, so we asked each of the nine candidates how they would work to address it if elected.

Affordable housing is expected to be one of the key issues on the minds of voters when they head to the polls to cast their ballots for Jacksonville’s next mayor in 2023.

Here’s what they said (in alphabetical order):

Omega Allen (Non-Party Affiliate): “I think the way you start looking at is we have to look at the incentives that we give, the tax breaks that we give to those who come into the area and purchase homes. And they take the incentives but don’t do anything to create wage living wage jobs. ... Absolutely [I would be in favor of rent control]. I know, we’re in a system of a free enterprise, I understand that, but I will be looking for every avenue available to me that I can step in to help my people, the people of Jacksonville to overcome the problems.”

LeAnna Cumber (Republican): She gave provided a statement on the issue in which she blames another candidate for part of the problem. Here is part of her statement: “There is an affordability problem across the board from housing to groceries to gas. Inflation continues to rise.” She goes on to say, “We need to focus on attracting more high wage jobs and improving our education system so that Jacksonville residents can afford to raise their kids and live safely in our City.”

Daniel Davis (Republican): “We should take action immediately and make workforce housing part of the capital improvement program in Jacksonville, Florida. We should do a survey of city-owned properties and independent authority on properties and make sure that we can make the finance stack work for developers where they can come in and preserve workforce housing for us in the future of Jacksonville.”

Donna Deegan (Democrat): “I think there’s no question that it’s one of the No. 1 issues and we need to do more to tackle that. I think there’s a lot of things we can do, I think we first of all need to look at all these vacant properties we have all over the city and see what we can do with that, see if we can have nonprofits and more affordable housing in some of those vacant lot areas. Also, I think we need to incentivize our developers to create more workforce housing. ... I think the state makes that virtually impossible [to implement rent control] if you look at state law.”

Al Ferraro (Republican): “I have a feeling it’s going to be an issue, and somebody brought up, but rent control is tough to do when you’re telling private people what they can charge for something. I think what we need to do is we need to see what we can do in the city on first-time homebuyer, qualified buyers in distressed neighborhoods along with doing what we’re doing as far as affordable housing. That is an important thing to do. I’m not supportive of controlling the price for private ownership. That’s, I don’t think what’s going to end up happening. If you go down that route, you’re going to have areas that turn blighted, because the owners are not going to be able to keep the buildings up. So I think what we need to concentrate on is maybe doing people who are qualified and trying to get them first-time home buyerships or continue with some of the workforce housing to give people a place to live so that they’re close to work or they have the opportunity of having transportation to work.”

Audrey Gibson (Democrat): “The way we increase our housing stock is to do more rehabilitation in the communities where there’s a lot of older homes, some of them are vacant. If you go up Myrtle Avenue and on both sides of the street, there’s empty houses. ... [Affordable housing] is a top priority for me, which is why it’s on my website and why I’ve spent so much time on the phone with Treasury to see how we draw down the funds to make it happen. ... It’ll be a campaign issue for me, as well as in neighborhood redevelopment period, because the way we get to increasing the affordable housing stock is where I was going when I talked about a lot of the places that are homes that are vacant, we go down Myrtle Avenue or some of the streets in between. ... Putting some kind of parameters on these companies, like Canadian companies, big companies that have people that they hired from Atlanta, for example, they come here they buy up this land, and then they build these little houses on and they charge an astronomical amount of rent.”

Frank Keasler (Republican): “That low-income housing should be a place for people, you know, are able to be trained and environment, workforce environment, etc., and move upward. And therefore it’s where ... that ought to be the floor that reasonable housing and, you know, basic roof over your head, toilets that flush, no rats. ... Nothing we do can click our heels and change and all of us end up in Kansas, you know? So why not at least say let’s start today seeing what can we do? So that in three to five, we got, you know, concrete in the ground, if you will, we’ve got investment, well, going vertical, if not with certificates of occupancy, where we’ve taken, you know, literally pockets of nothing but a low-income environment and voluntarily said to people, if you want to change your path, apply here. And when this is built, you can move in if you follow this course in the next two years for the next three years, and we start then we start moving all this out and eventually you start raising the old blighted neighborhoods, and then creating, you know, a modern kind of a community that private capital comes along, and that becomes affordable housing.”

Darcy Richardson (Independent): No response.

Theresa Ann Richardson (Democrat): “Well as mayor, if I am permitted, because I don’t know exactly what the mayor’s office is allowed to do in detail, but if the mayor does have any capability of putting mortgage and rent cap on properties and rental property, that would be one of the things that I would definitely be pro doing. Because we can build houses, we can build apartments all day. But until a rent cap is mandatory some landlords cannot charge any more money than X amount of dollars. We can build till the cows come home. So I feel that’s the only solution.”

About the Author:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.