Residents speak out against land trust in Washington Shores

Proposal would bring mixed-income housing to area

ORLANDO, Fla. – A group of citizens are speaking out against a proposed community that aims to build mixed-income housing in the Washington Shores community.

During a news conference on Tuesday, candidate for Orlando City Council Gary Siplin spoke about a petition to reverse course on the Hannibal Square Community Land Trust, located on the corner of Orange Center Boulevard and Dollins Street.

“While there is a tremendous need for affordable housing in Central Florida, a land trust in Washington Shores is not the answer,” Siplin said. “I am adamantly opposed to this land trust. Rather than help low-income residents, it further jeopardizes their financial well-being, because they will not own the land.”

Organizers of the news conference said the land trust will retain ownership of the property where homes would be built, which means homeowners could be put at financial risk depending on the terms of the trust.

“This project is not good for our community,” president of Westside Alliance Stella Lewis said. “The median income in this zip code (32805) is slightly more than $23,000 a year. That is not adequate to purchase a $145,000 home.”

Lewis said more than 1,200 people signed a petition to oppose the project. That petition will be brought before the Orlando City Council’s next meeting.

"It is our goal to revisit this with the mayor and city council members and if that can't be accomplished, we'll have to pursue legal action," attorney Andrew Lannon said.

When asked for a comment about the development, the city of Orlando provided a statement ahead of Tuesday's press conference:

“One of our top priorities is to ensure anyone who wants to call Orlando home has access to safe, high-quality housing they can afford. That is why the city is focused on developing new policies and partnerships to spur investment and create more housing options for residents at every income level. The redevelopment of these sites will assist in fostering community development in the Orange Center Boulevard area of the city by transforming blighted housing into a vibrant new community that residents will be proud to call home,” spokeswoman Karyn Barber said.

Organizers of the news conference are also holding another gathering to inform members of the Washington Shores community. The meeting was scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Dr. James R. Smith Neighborhood Center located at 1723 Bruton Boulevard.

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