Panama City programs hope to alleviate affordable housing dilemma

Local News

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) One of the biggest problems coming out of Hurricane Michael remains a lack of affordable apartments and houses for middle and low-income residents.

The hurricane damaged dozens of apartment complexes in the area and most of those have yet to be rebuilt. But the two-year struggle for middle-income Bay County residents to find apartments to rent or housing to buy is improving, local leaders said this week.

“So it’s anywhere between $30,000 and $40,000 dollars that they have to pretty much net in order for them to be able to afford a home or rental unit of that magnitude,” said Michael Johnson, the Panama City Community Development Director.

Most college educated professionals with that income can only afford a rent or a mortgage between $1,000 and 1,500 a month. That’s not easy to find.

“Some of those individuals are still living here in Panama City. They may be staying at some of the group sites that were set up by FEMA they may be staying with some of their family members until those units are back online,” Johnson said.

Many of the income-based apartment complexes in Bay county have not fully returned after being damaged in Hurricane Michael. In some cases construction is underway. In one case, the apartment owners are still fighting with their insurance company, Johnson said.

“We’re probably looking at at least 12 to 24 months before those units are fully constructed and fully occupied,” he added.

In the meantime, Panama City has received grant money to help people get into homes or apartments if they can find something in their price range.

“We also have a strategy where we will pay first months rent, security deposit, and utility deposits for anyone who has found a rental unit for which they can afford and continue to live in,” Johnson said.

Before the storm, about 70 percent of the people who lived in Panama City were renters.
City officials are hoping to turn more of them into homeowners.

“We’re offering up to $50,000 in down payment and closing assistance,” Johnson said. “So that will certainly help individuals get into their first home.”

There are also programs to help people who are struggling because of the pandemic. You can find out much more about Panama City’s housing assistance programs here.

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