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Fort Myers City Council unanimously approved the Affordable Housing Trust Fund Rental Assistance program, which will provide monthly rental subsidies to qualifying tenants.

On January 31, 2022, Council adopted an ordinance, creating the affordable housing trust fund to provide affordable housing units in the city. The intent of the ordinance was to facilitate development of affordable housing designed and priced to meet the needs of those living and working in the city.

Now, Fort Myers is promoting affordable housing opportunities through a rental assistance program for individuals and families with incomes at 100% of the Area Median Income or less.

“This is one tool. It doesn’t solve all the problems,” said Steve Belden, community development director for the city. “But we feel this can help some individuals on a short-term basis while they’re trying to get into a position for homeownership in the future.”

Belden said city staff is expecting between 100 to 150 eligible applicants annually, with the area medium income at $83,200 for a family of four. Annual compliance will include verification of income to ensure rent subsidy is applied to qualifying households.

The budget for the rental assistance program is up to $400,000. Funds will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis until exhausted, and will be based on a sliding scale formula up to a specific cap. It will operate on fair market value established by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The rent subsidy will be the difference between the affordable amount for income level and fair market rent, subject to the cap for each income-level category. The caps range from $300 for average-income level to $600 for an extremely low-income level.

“Those funds would go directly to the to the residential unit owner, not the tenant themselves,” Belden said. “The subsidy would start with a one-year period, and it could be renewed for an additional two years.”

The program operates with the city entering into an agreement with a participating rental operator and the tenant. The rental operator will then request a subsidy payment on a quarterly basis.

The property manager or owner will receive an additional 10% on top of the rental subsidy amount as an incentive to participate in the program.

“What we’re going to find is if the rental apartment isn’t getting any benefit from participating, there would be no motivation really to participate,” Belden said. “This is new, and we’re going to see how that if that incentive actually does work.”

To check eligibility, prospective tenants will apply with the city’s community development department to obtain a pre-approval letter, which they can take to a participating rental property to show a subsidy commitment from the city.

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