Immokalee Fair Housing Alliance celebrated the start of construction for the first of eight apartment buildings the nonprofit is constructing in Immokalee.
More than 100 community and business leaders participated in a “Wall Raising” event held March 1 at the construction site off Lake Trafford Road and 19th Street in Immokalee. Attendees had opportunities to hear how the new apartments will impact families who will be moving from substandard housing into quality, affordable rental apartments.
“There are thousands of hardworking families – with children that go to school every day, parents that go to work every day – that deserve the opportunity to live in decent, safe, affordable housing,” said Arol Buntzman, chair of the Immokalee Fair Housing Alliance. “The missing link for them to escape from poverty and exploitation is providing decent housing. There are no vacancies in Immokalee, so low-income families have little to no choice but to rent dilapidated facilities.”
Some trailers, shacks and homes in Immokalee are mold-ridden and infested with rodents and insects. Overcrowding is a concern, and the Immokalee Fair Housing Alliance has documented cases where families are paying as much as 70% of their household income on housing.
Once complete, the new community will include 128 two- and three-bedroom apartments, along with a community center for meetings, after-school programs, health care assistance and more. Rent will be capped at no more than 30% of a family’s income.
“As the community health center in Immokalee, we are thrilled to see affordable housing come to fruition for the many families living in Immokalee because we know housing is an important social determinant of physical, mental and overall health,” said Jamie Ulmer, CEO of Healthcare Network, which is partnering with the Immokalee Fair Housing Alliance to enhance health care services in the new community. “There are so many things that transpire within you as a person when you first have affordable housing.”
Research studies have identified direct correlations between housing and health, finding those living in substandard conditions often miss more days of work or school due to illness than colleagues or classmates who enjoy better living conditions.
Eleven-year-old Ashley Roblero and her family will be among the first to occupy an apartment in the yet-to-be-named community. She shares a two-bedroom home with her mom, stepdad, brother, sister and three cousins, and struggles to find a quiet place to do her homework at night.
“I can’t even explain how happy I am,” Ashley said. “So many kind people are here donating money for new buildings. Everything they’re doing is so amazing. May God bless them their whole entire life.”
“The entire project is being supported by generous people, foundations, grants and donations from faith-based organizations, and individuals who have donated anywhere from $5 to $1 million,” Buntzman added. “Without their help, this couldn’t be done.”
At the “Wall-Raising” event, supporters had opportunities to sign messages of hope and inspiration for future residents on four sections of drywall that will be embedded in the apartment buildings. Buntzman also announced that the Immokalee Fair Housing Alliance was only $1 million in donations away from being able to start construction on the community’s second apartment building.
To learn more about the community or to make a donation, please visit ImmokaleeFairHousing.org.
Immokalee Fair Housing Alliance
The Immokalee Fair Housing Alliance is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) created in 2018 by a group of concerned citizens who saw the damage done by Hurricane Irma to already substandard trailers and shacks rented by farmworker and other low-income families in Immokalee. The IFHA vision is for these families to have access to secure, affordable, hurricane-resistant rental housing, which will strengthen the community by fostering health, education, dignity and financial stability. The organization has embarked on a project to create community awareness and raise funds for a 128-rental unit complex in Immokalee. For more information, please visit ImmokaleeFairHousing.org.