There is no doubt that we are in a housing crisis. All you have the do is turn on the news or catch a snippet of conversation at the grocery store to hear about the rising cost of insurance, house prices and rents. All of this is causing a dramatic increase in our homeless population with the elderly, our veterans and single mothers being hit the hardest.

I recently hosted a forum with Rep. Daryl Campbell entitled, Housing Crisis with almost 80 people in attendance. The panel of experts included, Sen. Nan Rich, who is the Broward County commissioner for District 1, Dr. Ned Murray, associate director of the Jorge M. Perez Florida International University Metropolitan Center; Dr. Ted Greer, Jr., CEO of HOPE South Florida; and Rachel A. Williams, Housing and Community Development manager for the City of Fort Lauderdale.

Sen. Rich spoke about the dramatic deficit on the County’s affordable housing stock, the need to increase the money available from the state for affordable housing and a legislative change to the requirement for 65% of the affordable housing to be single family homes. Dr. Murray displayed a presentation showing 94% of Broward County residents cannot afford a home in Broward where the median home price is $600,000. Dr. Murray also showed rental prices are soaring and many residents are being priced out of their current rentals and into their cars because of a lack of rental properties. Dr. Greer discussed the increase in requests for services HOPE South Florida has received even from people who have managed to keep a roof over their heads but can no longer afford to feed themselves or their children. Ms. Williams shared the programs the City of Fort Lauderdale offers through state and federal dollars the city receives.

All of the panelists agreed that we cannot solve the housing crisis by working in silos. Local, state and federal elected officials and the community must come together to find creative and innovative ways to correct the market. I will work with my fellow elected officials at all levels to ensure these changes happen.

The community needs to be a partner in the solution as well by understanding that affordable housing is necessary to keep our economy going. Affordable housing does not mean “projects.” Affordable or the newer term attainable housing is geared toward our teachers, first responders and others in the workforce. Without affordable housing our economy will suffer. Businesses will not move into an area if their workers can’t find a place to live.

According to a study sponsored by Habitat for Humanity of Broward, affordable housing projects actually increase the property values of the homes in the surrounding areas and help with community appearance because the new homes are usually built on blighted property.

This is an issue that will take time, effort and understanding to get through but it is possible to reach solutions together. The journey to solutions will continue.

Dr. Roslin Osgood is the Florida State senator, District 33.