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Rotary Happenings: Affordable housing topic of Rotary meeting

By Staff | Jun 21, 2017

CHR Board of Directors President Richard Johnson and Executive Director Melissa Rice. PHOTO PROVIDED

An old quote comes to mind this week when beginning to write my Rotary column: “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. The more things you do, the more you can do,” coined by Lucille Ball.

Why did this quote come to mind? Because one of the busiest persons on Sanibel, Richard Johnson of Bailey’s General Store was one of our guest speakers last week at Rotary and definitely lives out this sentiment each and every day. Since taking on the reins of the Bailey family business along with his wife Mead, Johnson has followed the family philosophy of giving back to the Sanibel community. He has served on many nonprofit boards on Sanibel and gives time, talent and treasurers to so many nonprofits on island that you wonder, when does he have time to sleep?

But here he was last Friday morning, at 7 a.m., speaking to Rotary about Sanibel’s Community Housing and Resources organization/CHR. Johnson is the president of the CHR Board of Directors and with him was the new Executive Director of CHR Melissa Rice. Rice had served board treasurer since 2012 and co-chaired CHR’s annual Mardi Gras fundraiser for the past two years. Demonstrating her appreciation for the mission of CHR, Rice was a natural to take on her new position at CHR.

Back in 1979 a group of business leaders on the island had the realization that as growth of the island was inevitable, there would be a growing need for affordable housing for service employees, teachers, police, and government employees here on Sanibel. Francis Bailey and Ray Pavelka, two of the business leaders, along with many others helped formed CHR, Sanibel’s own affordable housing program. Over the last 38 years, the organization has developed through good and bad times, but today stands strong.

Today the average home on Sanibel sells for around $750,000 and rent goes well over $1,500 a month. Without some type of inheritance, or employer housing supplement, the average service employee on island can’t even come close to owning, or renting a home on Sanibel. CHR has a program in place that helps people qualify for CHR housing. The organization now manages 74 rental units, a 12-unit housing complex for seniors, and 14 Limited Equity Ownership /LEO homes, which provides home ownership opportunities to those who work on Sanibel, but who would not normally be able to afford to purchase a home on island.

As Johnson said, “CHR residences are spread throughout the island and provides a low-key presence fitting right into Sanibel neighborhoods.”

So, who qualifies for an opportunity to be part of the CHR family? Johnson and Rice provided the following information:

  • Island employees who work full-time on Sanibel and longtime Sanibel residents who are retired, or disabled, who meet eligibility requirements.
  • Basic requirements: At least one adult within the household must be currently working full-time on Sanibel. Seniors and disabled not working and year-round residents for at least five continuously years on Sanibel.
  • Financial requirement: an annual entry income level that applicants cannot exceed. Points are assigned based on income level, length of time working on Sanibel, and length of residency on Sanibel. Vacancies are filled following the points assigned. Rent is calculated on 30 percent of gross household income2016 average rent $691.

Funding for CHR comes from rent, administrative support from City of Sanibel, grants, donations, generous supporters and proceeds from fundraisers.

CHR information profile “Why does Sanibel need affordable housing? Affordable housing makes living on Sanibel possible for people that otherwise may not be able to, creates diversity on island, and gives a “hand up: to many deserving people. Sanibel’s economy depends on hundreds of people who provide services to island residents and visiting tourist. Living on island removes the stress and high cost of a long daily commute to work. Workers who live on Sanibel can be available at short notice and are able to be more reliable employees. Social and economic diversity is a priority for Sanibel and part of The Sanibel Plan. Everyone benefits when the island work force lives in the community and participates in schools, organizations, churches and community events. No one should have to leave a familiar community because of age, disability or finances.

For information regarding CHR, stop by their office at the Center4Life Building at 2401 Library Way.

Sanibel-Captiva Rotary meets on Friday mornings, at 7 a.m. at the Dunes Golf & Tennis Club. Guests are always welcomed.