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Lee County commits money for low-income, senior-oriented housing in North Fort Myers

Mike Walcher
River North Properties hopes to buy this land along US 41 in North Fort Myers. If all the funding comes through the non-profit group would build 72 units of affordable housing for low-income seniors.

Lee County is committing money to help affordable housing become reality.  

Commissioners Tuesday morning approved a $500,000, zero-interest loan to a non-profit group, associated with the Lee Housing Authority.  The group will use the money to jump-start a plan to build affordable housing for low-income seniors in the North Fort Myers area. 

River North Properties hopes to buy about seven acres of vacant land along US 41 near the Shell Factory. Then it would build Hermosa North Fort Myers, with 72 multi-family units. People 62 and older could rent there.

Marcus Goodson, head of the Lee County Housing Authority, said there's a tremendous need for affordable housing in the North Fort Myers area.

"People are paying more than they can afford," he said. "They are living under a house burden."

Allen Jacque is nearing the age to qualify, and said affordable housing is long overdue.

"That'd be great if I could get a place," he said, adding that in his opinion the current rents in North Fort Myers are ridiculous and outrageous.

The housing authority estimates it will cost $24 million to build Hermosa, with most of the funds from federal and state programs.

Lyle Showerman lives near the proposed site, and said he favors housing for seniors. He added that he believes taxpayers ultimately foot the bills, even if money comes from federal housing programs.

"Taxes are high enough today for everyone, including seniors like me," Showerman said. "We just can't afford to keep paying and paying and paying."

The River North group promises to pay back the loan within five years. Marcus Goodson said the loan from Lee County shows this is a priority, and should help Hermosa get state and federal approval.

"At this point in my professional career I just want to do things that'll help people," Goodson said.

Depending on income of the tenants, units would rent for as low as $500 a month for a one-bedroom, and up to around $900 to perhaps $1,000 for a two-bedroom.

Goodson said if funding comes through, Hermosa could welcome its first renters in the summer of 2024.

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Forty-one-year veteran of television news in markets around the country, including more than 18 years as an anchor and reporter at WINK-TV in southwest Florida.