Affordable housing for Clearwater's service industry workers on hold due to soaring prices

The servers at Frenchy’s South Beach Cafe are part of a critical workforce in Clearwater.

"We’re nothing without – and the beach is nothing without – good, solid employees and it's easier to get them if they live close by," said Dan Shouvlin of Frenchy’s Clear Sky Restaurants. 

Living close by is not just better for workers. Some believe it’s better for everyone. 

"It’s better for our road system. It’s better environmentally and it’s better for them economically because they don’t have to spend as much on transportation," offered Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard.

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But a proposed housing complex near downtown Clearwater, where hundreds in the workforce could live, isn’t moving forward. 

Plans for affordable housing in downtown Clearwater

Hibbard says it's because soaring construction costs and high real estate tax assessments would push the rent above affordable levels. The problem stretches beyond Clearwater to other places in Florida, where many people work in the hospitality and service industries.

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Clearwater’s mayor and other leaders are calling on the legislature to carve out a tax assessment break for affordable housing. They believe reducing taxes is the only way to provide affordable housing in high-dollar areas like Clearwater Beach. 

"Everybody says they want more workforce housing and affordable housing," says Hibbard. "We certainly have a deficit. It’s time to put up or shut up." 

For now, Clearwater’s proposed workforce housing remains a vacant lot waiting for action from Tallahassee.