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Local governments in Central Florida introduce 10-year plan to combat affordable housing crisis

‘We have to do this together,’ Seminole County commissioner says

In a regional effort, Seminole County, Orange County, Osceola County and the city of Orlando have all implemented a 10-year plan to combat the affordable housing crisis.

"We as a regional entity have to attack this together," said Lee Constantine, Seminole County Commissioner. "We aren't going to solve Osceola County, without solving Orange County, without solving Seminole County so we have to do this together."

To take a look at what state lawmakers are doing to provide funding for housing efforts, click here.

“Sadly, it’s typical of what’s happening,” Constantine said, reacting to the story of an Altamonte Springs single father struggling to find affordable housing.

Seminole County solutions

The Seminole County Commission last month was presented with a 10-year plan conducted by the Regional Initiative.

According to the plan, of Seminole County’s 167,549 households, 44,750, were cost-burdened. Cost-burdened means a person or family is spending more than 30% of their income on rent or mortgage, according to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Part of the 10-year plan includes short-term solutions -- within one to three years-- and long-term solutions, beyond four years up to 10 years.

Some of the short-term plans in Seminole County include creating a Community Land Trust. Constantine said that Seminole County is currently in the process of either using its surplus land or purchasing more land of their own to control what developers build but telling them to build affordable housing.

In the short-term, Seminole County wants to build an Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Constantine said last week the commission voted to regulate short-term rentals, including Air BNBs, and using that $250 annual registration fee for those properties for a new Affordable Housing Trust Fund. That money will, in turn, go to help families with the fees -- from applications to deposits -- to get into housing they can actually afford, Constantine said.

“The hardest part is paying the first and last (months rent) and all the fees with it,” he said. “Most people can afford the month to month, but they will never obtain the $3,000 or whatever they need to get in.”

Constantine said this idea is a win-win.

There are several other ideas laid out in the plan, including combating what’s called “NIMBY-ism,” meaning “Not in my back yard”

“Please, before anybody out there says affordable housing, we don’t want these people out there, the fact those people are your teachers, and your firefighters and others,” he said. “We’ve seen this coming for a while, it’s now at the point where if we don’t act we will have a serious crisis on our hands.”

Osceola County solutions

More than 500 families are on a waiting list for Section 8 Housing in Osceola County, one of the fastest-growing counties in the nation.

Osceola County also has laid out its detailed plan online with a mission that reads: “To establish housing programs by addressing the areas of critical need while ensuring residents of Osceola County have access to safe, decent, and sanitary housing.”

The Osceola County Commission recently purchasing 82-acres of land near a Poinciana Sunrail station for $8.9 million allowing the commission to control what is built there and they plan to build affordable housing.

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

Not only is the county purchasing the land near the Poinciana Sunrail station, but county officials say they are also in the process of closing on a small parcel of land in Buena Ventura Lakes that could be used for senior housing.

According to county officials, the county has several current programs to aide in affordable housing opportunities. They also have the mobility fee program which is $1 million in general revenue set aside annually to help subsidize impact fees for developers who promise to build affordable housing.

Orange County solutions

With more than 110,000 households cost-burdened in Orange County and average housing prices at $290,000, Mayor Jerry Demings said he knows there is a lack of affordable housing in the county. The county’s 10-year plan was implemented through the county’s Housing For All Task Force.

In the county’s 10-year plan, Orange County hopes to build 30,300 new housing units over the next 10 years.

Here's some of what Orange County has laid out:

  • Accessory dwelling units (ADUs) are subordinate structures to a primary dwelling unit and can be used to add density to established neighborhoods without changing the neighborhood’s character.
  • The reduction/removal of minimum living area requirements allows for smaller units, which are typically more affordable, and meet diverse needs and family sizes. It would be expected that smaller unit sizes, particularly single-family, would also create the need for smaller lot sizes
  • Increasing or eliminating household occupancy limits allows for the creation of co-housing opportunities, where individuals are able to rent individual rooms, but share common spaces with other tenants. By reducing the size of individual units and providing common amenities, co-housing opportunities provide additional housing choices.

Orlando solutions

In the last five years, the city of Orlando has invested or committed more than $40 million to create or preserve housing options for residents at all income levels. This includes the construction or rehabilitation of more than 1,600 multifamily units and the construction of more than 150 single-family residences and duplexes.

According to city officials, there is nothing in state law or city code that gives the city any authority to require affordable housing by private developers, developing on privately-owned land. That is why they are already working on several different projects.

The city has already amended codes to encourage a variety of housing options from granny flats to micro-units to townhomes.

Orlando’s Community Redevelopment Agency have implemented down payment assistance programs that can provide residents up to $100,000 in down payment assistance to make homes more affordable.

They also released a list of new construction specifically for affordable housing rentals and homeownership:

Rental options

  • Village on Mercy – The $27.4 million 166-unit Village on Mercy Drive opened in December 2019 and is devoted to serving low-income households with at least 50% of the units dedicated to permanent supportive housing for the homeless.
  • Pendana at West Lakes Senior Residences - The $23.5 million development broke ground in October 2018 and will feature 120 one and two-bedroom affordable senior apartment homes in an expansive three-story building adjacent to Pendana at West Lakes.
  • Parramore Oaks – The city’s Community Redevelopment Agency provided funding for the development of the 211-unit Parramore Oaks at the corner of Parramore Avenue and Conley Street. The development is being constructed in two phases with construction on the $25 million phase I completed in November 2019.
  • Fairlawn Village – The city is considering contributing $2 million in HUD HOME funding toward the new Fairlawn Village Development, being developed by Blue Sky Communities, LLC which will bring 116 multifamily units to two properties formerly known as Peppertree Shores and Peppertree Circle in the Mercy Drive area.
  • Amelia Court at Creative Village – The $60 million 256-unit Amelia Court at Creative Village mixed-income housing development is located at the northeast corner of Parramore Avenue and Amelia Street adjacent to the new OCPS Academic Center for Excellence. The development received low-income housing tax credits to bring 177 affordable units to the market. Amelia Court opened in July 2019 and is 100% occupied.
  • Pendana at West Lakes – The $40 million 200-unit Pendana at West Lakes celebrated its grand opening in November 2018 and includes 200 multi-family units with 40 market-rate units, 140 affordable units and 20 units for permanent supportive housing for the homeless.

Homeownership options

  • Carver Park – The homes will be a mix of single-family, townhome and duplex residences. Between 13 and 19 of the homes will be reserved for families at or below 80% of the Area Median Income. The City and CRA down payment assistance programs may be applicable for eligible buyers.
  • Single-Family Infill Homes in Parramore – To increase the number of homeowners in Parramore, the city’s CRA has allocated $4 million to design and build up to 17 single-family houses on city-owned lots near the OCPS Academic Center for Excellence and south of the 408. Construction on the first eight homes has been completed and the buyers have been selected and either closed or in the process of closing on the homes. The CRA also created a new CRA Down Payment Assistance Program to provide additional financial assistance aimed at making these homes more affordable for qualified buyers. This new program complements the existing city down payment assistance programs.
  • Southside of Orange Center Boulevard – The city recently entered into an agreement with Hannibal Square Community Land Trust for the redevelopment of six vacant parcels on the southside of Orange Center Boulevard into an estimated $10 million mixed-income residential development that will include 30, two-story owner-occupied townhomes with garages and a three-story mixed-use building comprised of up to 28 two-bedroom rental apartments along with up to 20,000 square feet of ground-floor retail to provide neighborhood-serving retail. The prices of both the townhomes and multi-family units will be across a wide range of affordability levels with units available to residents making 50% Average Median Income (AMI) while others will be set aside for rent or sale at market rate. Closing on the property is expected to occur in the first half of 2020 with construction beginning shortly after.
  • West Lakes Community Home Rehabilitation – In October 2019, the city approved two agreements – one with the West Lakes Partnership, Inc. and one with the Hannibal Square Community Land Trust, Inc. – valued at a total of $525,000 in CDBG funds that allow for the two partners to purchase and rehabilitate up to five single-family homes in the West Lakes community to then be sold to eligible low and moderate-income households with an income of less than 80% of the area median income (AMI).

Stabilization/Rehabilitation programs:

  • Baptist Terrace - The CRA contributed $1 million to the Orlando Neighborhood Improvement District to purchase and renovate the 14-story, 197-unit Baptist Terrace affordable senior housing community.
  • Parramore Asset Stabilization Fund Partnership – The city and CRA approved a $1,250,000 to the Central Florida Foundation to help renovate and rehabilitate 83 rental residential units (44 properties) located throughout Parramore.
  • Maxwell Terrace – The 75-unit Grand Avenue Economic Community Development/Pathlight Home Affordable Housing Preservation project will receive new roof split systems for air conditioning to federally mandated 410-A gas systems. The improvements should be complete by September 30, 2020.
  • Clear Lake Sewer Connection – Through a $450,000 CDBG commitment, 22 affordable units will move from septic to connect to the city’s sewer system, keeping the project viable and the units affordable. Improvements should be completed by Sept. 30.
  • Palm Grove Apartments – The 126-unit Palm Grove Apartments are currently being renovated by the Orlando Neighborhood Improvement Corporation with nearly $900,000 in HOME funds to upgrade the units with new HVAC systems and upgrades to kitchen and bathrooms. Of the units, 26 are provided for very low income households and 100 units to low income households. Renovations are expected to be completed by May 2020.
  • Richard Allen Gardens - The $1 million Richard Allen Gardens rehabilitation improved 30 units for low-income households and included the conversion of two ground floor apartments into one bedroom, one bath handicapped accessible units. The project was completed in May 2017.

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