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Survey suggests there could be a mass exodus of workers if Collier's housing crisis isn't blunted

Property located off of Manatee Road • Adjacent to Manatee Elementary School • 35 Acres • Currently permits 4 units per acre
Collier County Public Schools
Property located off of Manatee Road, adjacent to Manatee Elementary School, in Collier County.

The sun in winter, beaches and just the sheer beauty of Southwest Florida life – or at least the thought of it -- can be very appealing.

While holding that thought, think about buying a home in Collier County where even a typical home costs close to $600,000. That is more than 70 percent higher than the national average and hundreds of thousands above the average state price.

And rent? Collier leads the nation with 50 percent rent hikes in just the last two years.

The results can mean a shortage of workers, longer commutes for those who must live outside Collier County and an overall fear that the days of working in that sunshine and beauty may soon be over for many essential workers.

Over the span of two weeks recently, the Collier County School District surveyed its nearly 7,000 employees about the state of housing.

A staggering 64 percent of the 3,400 Collier school district employees who took part in the survey say they fear the current cost of housing will force them to seek employment elsewhere.

Half of the respondents say they have a second-job or must supplement their income to get by.

Nearly half say they are concerned they won’t have a stable place to stay next year.

That instability is already a reality for hundreds of respondents.

About 10 percent or 334 of the respondents said they currently don’t have a place of their own to call home and instead must live with a family member, a friend, stay in a hotel or even a shelter.

Nineteen percent are unable to even live in Collier County.

It is clear that no issue is more pressing than essential housing for our workforce,” said Valeria Wenrich, the chief of human resources for Collier County Public Schools. “Access to housing and cost of living have been an issue in Collier County but not to this extent. CCPS now has hard survey data to prove the urgency of this issue. “

The survey was conducted as the school district decides what it wants to do with 35 acres of land it currently owns near Manatee Elementary School. Idea day be homes hundreds of essential workers in Collier County like teachers, police and firefighters and health care workers.

District officials say they don’t intend to be the landlord, but are shopping around for potential buyers willing to bring truly attainable workforce housing to Collier.

Results of the survey will help inform our next step,” Wenrich said.

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