Affordable housing proves elusive

Image of Ekos Magnolia Oaks courtesy of McDowell Property Management

According to Data Commons, the average income in Tallahassee is $25,364, while the average rent in Tallahassee is $1,450, according to Zillow.

The disconnect between income versus monthly rent bares the question, does Tallahassee need more affordable housing?

Tallahassee is home to over 70,000 students, making up 35% of the population. Many believe there should be some type of housing to accommodate the large population of students.

In 2023, the capital city saw a rent increase of 8%, with rent increasing and income stagnating. Tallahassee leaders are looking for a solution. In 2020, the city created a five-year plan to create more affordable housing.

Tallahassee recently opened a 110-unit complex, the Ekos Magnolia Oaks, reserved for families that earn 33%-60% below the area’s median income. The complex offers units from $427 to $1,200 a month.

Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey told WTXL-TV, “As housing challenges are felt across the country, the City of Tallahassee’s approach to increasing the affordable housing inventory locally is producing results, like Ekos Magnolia Oaks.”

Ekos Magnolia Oaks is a start in the quest to find the solution to fixing Tallahassee’s housing issue.

Before the pandemic, local residents had different agencies where they could apply for affordable housing or rental assistance. As the pandemic disappeared, so did the programs.

Tallahassee has also proposed building affordable housing in the city’s art district. Since 2022, Leon County looked to provide around $36 million to assist low-income households. Most of this money stems from federal funds that were provided during the pandemic.

“Tallahassee housing is awful, it’s not even affordable anymore. The rent is too high, and management of these places are not trying to help at all,” Tallahassee resident Justin Bazile said. “It does not feel Tallahassee is for students anymore,” Bazile added.

Bazile has waited for housing for more than a month and is still doing his research to find affordable housing.

Inflation and rent continue to rise in Florida at a rapid rate. Areas such as Orlando saw rent increase by 45%, according to WKMG Orlando. In a study done by Smart Asset, the U.S. saw an average rent increase of 5.5% this year, while Florida saw an increase of 6.4%.

Ekos Magnolia Oaks is a start to finding the solution to fixing Tallahassee’s housing issue, but city officials and residents all agree that more work still needs to be done.