Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Try being a low or middle income resident unable to afford the insurance and property taxes, much less the monthly mortgage payments, or who do not have the credit rating to even get in the game. Renting an apartment in this area has become just as bad.

The Lakeland Ledger, as part of it's year long look at Polk County's population growth and it's effect on residents, focused on apartment rentals in Monday's edition.

While not weighed down with all the financial burderns of owning a home (or trying to), finding an affordable apartment in Polk County is difficult at best. The current occupancy rate is 99.2 percent, with many complexes having often lengthy waiting lists. And the average monthly rent is $674, up nearly $100 during the past five years.

Of course, skyrocketing property values --- and the related property taxes --- along with insurance rates are the main reasons for the current crisis.

I currently pay $645 a month for a two bedrooom apartment in North Lakeland, for which I consider myself very fortunate. This is my sixth year here, and my rent only went up about $20 this year. However, I am faced with the probability of moving when my lease expires next April as I expect the new owner (this complex has flipped three times since I've been here) will likely not be as generous. Combined with the outrageous rates we pay from Lakeland Electric, plus phone bill, groceries, and laundry, it's tough going.

While there are a few more apartment buildings being constructed across Polk County, the vast majority of residents are simply not able to afford the rents being demanded. And there are more issues than just insurance and property taxes involved in the slowdown of any new affordable apartments. It's a good story, and everyone should read it. We need to pay attention to the growing number of residents who are forced to rent when discussing the affordable housing crisis here, and across Florida.


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