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Concerned residents call for action on affordable housing in Pensacola

by Yona Gavino | Mon, April 24th 2023, 9:40 PM CDT

PENSACOLA, Fla. -- There's a crisis in the Pensacola area when it comes to affordable housing.

In many cases, rent is over a thousand dollars a month or more.

It's too high for many people to afford.

An estimated 1,200 people filled the pews of First Baptist Church of Warrington. They attended a meeting with faith leaders, and concerned residents, like them, looking for solutions.

Many prayed for answers to affordable housing.

“It’s affecting the people that we rely on to run this city -- waiters, customer reps, teachers, firefighters," Marian Bennett, J.U.S.T. Pensacola co-chair said.

J.U.S.T. Pensacola is a coalition of 17 interfaith groups.

They called for action, and a trust fund established, with dedicated funding of at least 4.2 million for 10 years.

“An affordable housing trust fund allows us to leverage money that the city puts in, with out state and federal money," Ansley Walker, associate rector at St. Christopher's Episcopal Church said. "So for every $1 that the city would contribute, we could attract six more dollars in and continue to grow it.”

Pensacola Mayor D.C. Reeves ran on promises of helping with affordable housing.

“We’re ok if it’s not $4.2 million," Ansley Walker, associate rector at St. Christopher's Episcopal Church said. "We recognize the mayor has told us that’s not doable. But we also know that they’re setting their budget right now. And the budget shows your priorities. The mayor has said housing is one of his 3 priorities.”

Walker and city council members were invited to attend Monday night's event, but most couldn't because of another meeting.

Councilman Casey Jones said conversations are continuing to address the issue.

"I think J.U.S.T Pensacola is doing great work and have got great proposals for us," Jones said. "I was able to attend the event last year and speak at the event.”

“We absolutely have to do more for Pensacola and housing in general," Jones said. "There’s a lot of people who come here, with nowhere to live.”

WEAR News spoke to one man who's familiar with housing concerns.

"Just through friends and their children, attempting to move closer to the downtown area, they're finding it difficult to do," Lee Wright, Molino resident said.

“Our data shows, in order to afford a one bedroom apartment in Pensacola, you have to earn over $16 dollars an hour," Bennett said. "To afford a 2-bedroom apartment, it’s more than $19 an hour.”

Monthly rent that adds up to over a thousand dollars is simply too high for many to afford.

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