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County donates lots for housing effort

Surplus sites conveyed to Affordable Homeownership Foundation

By CHUCK BALLARO - | Dec 9, 2020


The Lee County Board of County Commissioners has approved the donation of three county-owned properties to a company that plans to have affordable housing placed on them.

The three surplus vacant lots, two in Lehigh and the third in North Fort Myers, were conveyed last week to Affordable Homeownership Foundation, a not-for-profit affordable housing agency for construction of housing to serve the elderly, disabled, veterans, and youth aging out of foster care. 

The Lehigh lots are located on Eisenhower Boulevard, while the North Fort Myers lot is on Sacramento Street, in Palmona Park.

The lots were acquired through tax deeds for non-payment of taxes.

Lois Healy, CEO of Affordable Homeownership Foundation, said the county has more than 90 such lots. They met with the Department of County Lands to see if something could be done.

“We got one property last year in North Fort Myers in the same area we got the property this year and we’re building affordable housing for seniors there,” Healy said.

Affordable Homeownership Foundation contacted the department in September to seek the donation of those properties for construction of affordable housing.

The North Fort Myers properties will be used for senior SROs, or single room occupancy, which will house four people with disabilities and one elderly person. The Lehigh properties are to be sold for affordable housing, Healy said.

The foundation has become a CHODO, or community housing development organization, which builds and remodels rental homes.

“The average person on disability makes $771 per month and the average rent is between $1,000 and $1,200. People in that low-income area are becoming homeless,” Healy said. “We saw that need and decided to start building and rehabbing homes for those people.”

At the BOCC meeting last week, Deborah Hopkins of Housing First suggested the county donate its remaining lots for tiny home villages to give low-income people a place to live, albeit in a place that’s 600 square feet.

Tiny homes have gained in popularity nationwide, but have been controversial locally, especially in Cape Coral, where in 2017 a proposed such “village” faced uproar from nearby property owners.

Healy said they build homes where people want to live, where bus routes are easily accessible. There is research involved in that, so while the foundation can acquire as many as five properties, they only got three this year because of the research they had to do, but the work was well worth it.

“This is a good program, especially for non-profits,” Healy said.