Osceola County buys $8.9 million land for affordable housing

82-acre property is adjacent to Poinciana SunRail station

Leaders in Osceola County say they want to make sure affordable housing is available to residents as the region continues to grow.

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. – This month, the Osceola’s Board of County commissioners approved investing $8.9 million to buy an 82-acre property right that is walking distance to the Poinciana SunRail station.

Previous owners of the land, which is located off Poinciana Boulevard, wanted to make it a development for single-family housing, however when the opportunity came up for county officials to buy it, it went along with their plan to build affordable housing -- smaller units for smaller families. It was attractive for county officials also pushing for “transit-oriented development”.

“A lot of times there’s a big disconnect between affordable housing and transportation and so by purchasing this property and being able to control it, we can then say as the county that we want to have a certain percentage of it specifically for affordable housing,” said County Commissioner Cheryl Grieb, who also works as a realtor.

Once closing for the $8.9 million property takes place at the end of February, a master plan will be created, followed by a process to find developers to execute the plan. Grieb said with the county making the purchase, they are able to control what they envision for “affordable” housing.

“A lot of times people say, ‘We need affordable housing, you need to make them put in that affordable housing,’” Grieb said about development on land the county doesn’t own. “As the government, we can’t dictate what someone puts in, the market dictates. By controlling this location, we were able to do that.”

Buying property is one of many ways Osceola County is getting a grip on growth there.

According to a study by the Orlando Economic Partnership, Osceola County is the fastest-growing county in our region. Additionally, over half of Osceola’s households are one- or two-person. The need could be accommodated in smaller units, but only a small portion of county housing stock, less than 10%, is studio apartments or one-bedroom units, according to county officials.

Osceola County also created a fund that designated $1 million to pay impact mobility fees for eligible developers building affordable housing.

“It’s to attract developers who will build affordable units,” Grieb said.

The county commission also recently approved allowing accessory dwelling units (AUDs), which allows owners to rent out units on their property, like mother-in-law suites, for example.

When asked how the county tackles the growth responsibly?

“That’s a challenge because we don’t control the growth and put up a sign that says ‘Osceola County is full’. People just come and we are in a position right now where we are the number one destination spot,” Grieb said. “Trying to get as much ahead of it as we can.”