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More than 300 applications were received in less than 24 hours for the first single-family home being built by the city of Fort Myers as part of its affordable homeownership revolving construction program.  

The program was established to increase opportunities for homeownership for individuals and families in Fort Myers falling within the designated income range of up to 120of median household income for the region, according to the city’s website.  

Plans call for the city to contract with local contractors to build single-family homes ranging from 1,200 to 1,600 square feet with one or two-car garages on infill lots within the city. The homes will be sold to qualified home buyers who meet the income requirement at the city’s cost with no markup, with a targeted range of $230,000 to $260,000 depending on square footage and other actual costs.  

Applications opened to potential home buyers July 8 for the $245,000 three-bedroom, two-bathroom home currently under construction on Lincoln Boulevard and were suspended late in the afternoon July 9 after the “overwhelming” response, Fort Myers Community Development Department Director Steven Belden said.  

“We’re actually overwhelmed and we’re going to suspend any further applications for now just because of the overwhelming response so we can start going through the applications,” Belden said. “There’s a lot of work involved with qualifying the applicants and making sure they meet the requirements, so we’re shutting down the application portal on the website at least until further notice.” 

The city will most likely use a lottery system to make the final selection for a home buyer from the pool of qualified applicants, he said. 

Belden said the program grew from Fort Myers City Council’s “commitment to doing what it can to address the affordable housing issue” and the adoption of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund in 2022, which is being used to cover construction costs on the first home being built. The proceeds from the sale of each home will be used to construct additional homes to be sold as part of the program, according to the city. Belden estimated there is currently “a couple of million dollars” in the trust fund, part of which also is used for a rental assistance program for low-income renters in the city. 

“The idea is that once we build that house, we sell it at cost,” Belden said. “This particular house we’re building right now, it’s for $245,000; that’s what we’re paying the contractor. Then we’re going to turn around and sell it for $245,000 to recoup those funds and then hopefully build another house.” 

Belden said that while discussing ways the city could help with affordable housing options, officials realized there were vacant lots throughout the city that could be utilized for building homes. 

“We have a handful of lots just sitting there vacant. And the thought was to start with the lots we own and see if we can build some houses on them that are affordable that we can get people in and start to fill that need and fill that gap by providing a home to a lower middle-income family so they can get into a home they can own themselves,” Belden said. 

The Fort Myers program differs from similar programs in larger metropolitan areas, Belden said, because instead of selling vacant lots to affordable housing developers to build houses, the city is doing the building itself. 

“It’s fairly unique for the city to actually be doing this,” he said. “We hire the local contractors, we select the plans, we hire them to build a house, we pay them to build the house. There are probably not too many communities that are doing that.” 

Applicants for homes in the city’s affordable home ownership program must qualify for a mortgage for the full amount of the sales price of the home, less any down payment from a financial institution of their choice and obtain an unconditional loan commitment/qualification letter, according to city materials. 

Homebuyers under the program will not be permitted to sell the home until after 10 years of ownership, according to the city website, and in hardship cases where the buyer must sell the home prior to that, the city would have first right of refusal to purchase the home at the original sales price based on the condition of the home. 

The city website states the homes built under the program will be connected to city of Fort Myers water and sewer utilities and will feature “quality construction including concrete block on slab, stucco exterior finish, tile of luxury vinyl flooring, wood cabinets and hard surface countertops in kitchen and baths, storm rated windows, energy efficient appliances and efficient floor plans.” 

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