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What is being done for individuals who can’t afford a shiny, new home in a shiny, new subdivision?

Research by The Beacon last year found the average monthly rent for a single-family home in DeLand is nearly $1,500.

According to data from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, to afford to rent a one-bedroom home in Volusia County, the renter would need to make $17.31 an hour — far more than the minimum wage, at $8.56.

What’s being done about providing enough affordable housing for current residents, whose average annual income is just $26,792?

That’s $9,500 less than the $36,000 estimated annual income needed for a one-bedroom rental in Volusia County.

In a conversation with The Beacon, Cobb Cole attorney Mark Watts said Central Florida is a popular place to move to, and that’s something developers have to keep in mind. That doesn’t mean housing is made inaccessible to locals, he said; he recognizes DeLand does have an affordable-housing problem.

One possible solution, Watts suggested, is to allow for easier development of accessory dwelling units, such as small, rentable houses in the backyard, or apartments over a garage, for example.

“I think that’s one of the most effective ways to incrementally increase density and bring residents in in ways where the impacts aren’t focused in any one place,” Watts said.

Watts said accessory dwelling units could help solve this problem and also allow for more residents who aren’t all clustered in 600-home housing developments.

Solomon Greene, agreed, saying this would be a good “short-term solution.”

Greene is a Realtor with Greene Realty and a member of The Neighborhood Center Affordable Housing Committee.

“Currently, we are facing two main challenges: price and inventory,” Greene said. “Inventories of available homes are at historic lows, interest rates are near historic lows, and the costs of new construction have surged. Florida is also experiencing an influx of residents, while many younger buyers are now entering the market.”

Greene continued, “These forces have led to an increase in demand and reduction in supply, which pushes prices out of reach for many low- to middle-income buyers. This isn’t just a problem in DeLand, but a nationwide issue.”

The solution is going to require more than a few mother-in-law additions.

“I don’t think new developments are targeting the problem directly due to the fact that the entry-level price for new homes is out of reach for buyers making below the median income for DeLand,” Greene said. “It is also not feasible for an investor to purchase a new home at today’s prices with the intention of renting and still generate a desirable return on investment.”

Greene is optimistic, though, citing the willingness of DeLand City Manager Michael Pleus and the DeLand City Commission to pursue creative solutions.

“Some ideas that have been discussed are incentives for infill development on existing building lots, incentivizing the rehabilitation of neglected structures into available housing, expanded accessory dwelling-unit availability, and other potential solutions,” Greene added.

The problem isn’t development as a whole, Watts said, but how it is being tackled. He believes there are sustainable avenues to developing the area, not just as a whole, but for individuals in need of more affordable housing, too.

“Florida’s going to continue to draw a new population,” Watts said. “Our obligation to the next generation is to figure out how we do it well.”

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