Flooding and affordable housing addressed at meeting

Mar 28, 2024

By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic staff, March 28, 2024

Grassroots efforts to improve affordable housing and address flooding issues in Volusia County were the focus of the March 18, F.A.I.T.H. Assembly meeting at Our Lady of Hope Parish in Port Orange. F.A.I.T.H., which stands for Fighting Against Injustice Towards Harmony, is an organization of faith-based members working with local government to
improve the lives of residents and correct injustices within the community.

Virginia Bennett, a Daytona resident, spoke to more than 1,100 members of F.A.I.T.H., sharing her plight after Hurricane Ian ravaged her home in Big Tree Village, Midtown. Upon arriving at her home to Big Tree Village she discovered catastrophic damage. “It looked like the ocean. There were white caps on the lawns,” she said.
The events led to multiple relatives living in her daughter’s home for months. She was glad to have family members nearby, but she knew she was one of the fortunate ones.

Three of the top five cities in Florida most at risk for flooding are located in Volusia County. Flooding causes an increase in homeowner premiums and rising utility costs, poor water quality, unsafe levels of lead in tap water, and more. Many
residents forced to move elsewhere due to black mold and other contaminants after flooding occurs, often cannot find affordable places to live. Fran Owings of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Daytona Beach shared her story of displacement, leading her to abandon her flooded apartment after she woke up to knee high water. Running out of money she ended up living in her car for six months.

F.A.I.T.H. is working with elected officials to implement low impact development (LID) requirements in new construction and modifications in compromised existing structures to help the situation. The LID techniques help reduce cumulative impacts by capturing and slowly releasing stormwater. While Volusia County did receive a grant for LID, there is debate over how to use it. F.A.I.T.H.’s Flood Committee continues to work with the county toward LID implementation and hopes this will be one of many steps to improve outdated policies that don’t account for climate change. Council Chair Jeff Brower and council member David Santiago attended the assembly and committed to supporting a hybrid strategy tying new development incentives to use of LID strategies.

The Affordable Housing Committee continues to pursue the county in creating a Housing Trust Fund where money is set aside by local governments to assist in the creation, rehabilitation and preservation of housing that is affordable to people of a certain income bracket. The fund requires linkage fees to reconcile the link between new development and the rising cost of rent. The fees ensure a certain portion of funds per square foot of new development. These fees, which would go into the housing fund, could facilitate rehabilitation of existing abandoned properties and new housing projects.

To date, although City of Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry and the county commission voted to create an Affordable Housing Trust Fund that includes linkage fees, the trust fund is, as of yet, non-existent. F.A.I.T.H. did secure the commitment of Mayor Henry, Commissioners Ken Strickland and Paula Reed to pursue the fees with a match from state, federal government and private investment for affordable housing.