Bill Mutz

Pressed by a local activist group to continue to expand the city’s affordable housing, Mayor Bill Mutz agreed Tuesday night to work for the creation of a special trust fund.

Mutz joined a Zoom meeting conducted by PEACE, a local faith-based community action group also known as the Polk Ecumenical Action Council for Empowement.

Also present in the meeting were about 50 PEACE leaders and members, Lakeland City Commissioner Phillip Walker, Winter Haven Mayor Brad Dantzler, and Winter Haven City Commissioner Nat Birdsong. PEACE has been pushing Lakeland and Winter Haven city commissioners to address the problem of homelessness through the creation of more affordable housing units.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the mayors were asked if they would direct their respective city managers to draft an ordinance by August that would create an affordable housing trust fund. The fund would be used to leverage federal funds and lure developers that specialize in building housing for low-income families. Mutz and Dantzler both said yes, although each city’s commission would have to approve the ordinance.

There was no mention at Tuesday’s meeting how the trust funds would be funded.

“I am just interested in getting (low-income families) housed in the most cost-effective way we can and as quickly as we can,” Mutz said.

Affordable housing has been one of Mutz’s signature issues, and at a huge PEACE rally last year, he agreed to a goal of building 500 affordable-housing units by 2023. The city has made significant progress toward that goal, with about half that many units under development, although PEACE leaders have expressed concern that some of the units may be set aside for middle-income families.

Tuesday’s Zoom meeting was a substitute for this year’s rally, which was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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