Habitat for Humanity recently announced that an upcoming 23-acre affordable housing development in East Naples, Florida, will be built with a concrete border wall. According to NBC2 News, residents within the nearby communities have called for a physical barrier separating the already-existing neighborhoods from the new property.
The proposed development, Regal Acres II, is slated for construction within a secluded area off Greenway Road in East Naples, near the East Tamiami Trail. This particular plot of land is surrounded by lakes, preserves, and other green space. It’s parent site, Regal Acres, was built from 2010 to 2015 and is located next door. When the nonprofit housing group called for an area rezoning earlier this summer, locals started complaining that once complete, there’d be too much affordable housing in the area.
Some said such projects aren’t evenly distributed across the county, while others said additional housing would ramp up traffic congestion and hinder commute times. Not only that, but per the Naples Daily News, local residents don’t want to see cars parked on lawns, a complaint inspired by past frustrations at the first Regal Acres neighborhood. Nearby homeowners also worry the new development, and its residents, will infringe on their privacy.
Nick Kouloheras, president of Habitat for Humanity of Collier County, told NBC2 that throughout the community input process, several other concessions were made to please nearby residents and gain approval for the project, but finding a solution to the rising concerns over superfluous low-cost housing was the most difficult. Habitat negotiated the construction of an 8-foot-tall solid wall on the north and south ends of the property connected by a chain-link fence.
The Collier County City Commission made a unanimous decision in late October to approve the rezoning and the build-out of Regal Acres II. According to Kouloheras, the addition of the perimeter barrier not only blocks future low-income families from easily connecting with other neighbors, it also bumps up the overall price of the project. “These concessions that we made are to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Kouloheras told NBC2. “There are some families we will not be able to help because of those concessions.”
Naples has been long-known as one of the most affluent cities in South Florida. But the reality is that 40 percent of Collier County residents can’t afford to live there; the cost of buying and maintaining a home is too high, especially with the threat of destruction due to hurricanes. The community is on the brink of an affordable housing crisis, and city officials are seeking ways to fix the problem such as increasing density or offering housing incentive programs.
For 40 years, Habitat for Humanity of Collier County has been building such solutions. They’ve completed over 1,700 homes in Naples and the adjacent Immokalee community since their inception in 1978. Regal Acres II, expected to begin construction in the summer of 2021, is one of 15 affordable neighborhoods that they’ve built, renovated, or planned over the years. Many of those have been heavily contested by the public.