It probably won’t come as any surprise to anyone in Niceville, Valparaiso or Bluewater Bay – the cost of living in Okaloosa County in general, or our area specifically, has shot up in the last five years. Poorer residents who own their homes have been priced out and forced to sell. Last year, Niceville Police Chief David Popwell suggested that one way to increase recruitment and solve affordable housing for local first responders: ask builders to give the city homes for first responders to live in.
Housing has become so unaffordable the County Commission has asked the state legislature for roughly $150,000 to study the issue this year.
The effects of unaffordable housing in the county have already had an effect on local first responders – who can’t afford to live here. As a result, there is a shortage of law enforcement in the area.
Should requesting the money from the state legislature fail – Okaloosa County would have to come up with the money itself. Something it hopes cities would help it do.
The County Commission voted unanimously to move forward with the project at their meeting on Tuesday.
Now that the commission has approved the use of funds to make the study happen – the County must get bids from contractors to do the study. That person or group would have a tall task. According to the county language in the agenda they published for the meeting, Okaloosa County is a “rapidly growing and high cost community[.] Okaloosa County is facing a shortage in attainable housing for its residents. As indicated by high prices and rents, there is an unmet demand for housing as supply has not kept up with demand. This is a growing problem that is projected to escalate in the coming years due to anticipated growth in military missions stationed at the Eglin Reservation and the influx of new residents.”
The selected contractor, who will be chosen by sealed bid after bidding closes on February 9th at 3:00 pm would be responsible for coming up with the comprehensive plan after performing everything from in-depth statistical analysis to surveys of the land and people in Okaloosa County.
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