Housing needs discussed for north Walton County


District 3 County Commissioner Melanie Nipper: “I think we need to move our north end of the county forward with public housing.”


District 3 County Commissioner Melanie Nipper would like to start moving on a plan for affordable housing for workers who live in the north end of the county.

Nipper noted that since the District 3 office is located on 140 acres of county-owned property, it might be a suitable location for affordable housing or light industrial businesses that could support that area.

Nipper suggested holding public meetings about the prospect to her fellow County Commissioners at their most recent meeting.

District 5 Commissioner Tony Anderson said he has seen no conceptual plans as a visual of Nipper’s idea and was reluctant to commit.

“This is just to make sure we get things moving,” County Administrator Larry Jones attempted to clarify. “This is what we are looking at.”

However, Anderson said there would be funding issues and other potential holdups with such a project.

Nipper said she would like to bring a proposal for her fellow commissioners to see at an upcoming meeting.

“It’s upland and I would like to bring a conceptual plan back. I think we need to move our north end of the county forward with public housing,” she said.

Jones said the area has a lot of veterans who need housing and this suggestion is looking at “how do we all work together to make things better?”

“We’re looking at housing initiatives and who has done similar projects,” he said.

However, some members of the public were not in favor of the idea.

Grayton Beach resident Bonnie McQuiston asked why the county purchased the land and what was its purpose.

Jones said the county had purchased land in Liberty County and an exchange was made.

“It hasn’t had any development plans and there has been no high-level discussion,” he said.

However, McQuiston questioned whether the county should get into the housing business.

“Only about one-tenth of taxes come from north of the bay. Any affordable housing would have to be free. I think the county should be very cautious when talking about getting into the housing business,” McQuiston said.

Walton County Housing Director Tom Baker said he is involved in subsidy-type housing in the county and that is not what is trying to be done here.

“We are taking a look at housing like we did in Mossy Head — affordable. Real estate people have a lot of requests for housing around $100,000 that is not here,” Baker said. “There are people who have a really hard time paying light bills. We’re not wanting to request HUD put more Section 8 housing in here — just housing people can afford. It’s not as big a problem today as it will be. We need to address workforce housing.”

Nipper told The Sun that while campaigning for office, what she heard over and over is that people can’t afford to leave their parents’ home. They can’t afford $1,000 a month for housing.

“There are 100 vouchers out asking for affordable housing right now,” she said. “There’s not much up here and no rental property to speak of. But we must move slowly because we must have water and sewer on Highway 90 and we need a master plan.”