Here’s who’s working to find solutions to Central Florida’s affordable housing crisis

Find out how you can get involved

(Rick Bowmer, Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

ORLANDO, Fla. – There’s not a one-size-fits-all solution to the affordable housing crisis Central Florida is facing, but there are some groups and individuals working to make housing more attainable.

Episode 2 of Graham Media Group’s “Solutionaries” digital newscast aims to highlight those people.

Let’s take a look at who they are and how they’re getting results.

Habitat for Humanity

With the belief that affordable housing plays a critical role in strong and stable communities, the organization strives to “build a world where everyone has a decent place to live,” according to its website.

Families hoping to secure affordable housing can apply for homeownership with their local Habitat for Humanity. Families are chosen for homeownership based on three criteria:

  • The applicant’s level of need
  • Their willingness to partner with Habitat
  • Their ability to repay a mortgage through an affordable payment plan

If chosen, homeowners invest hundreds of hours of work into their homes, something called “sweat equity,” by working with volunteers to make homeownership possible in addition to paying an affordable mortgage while also receiving financial education, according to the organization’s site.

The global nonprofit works in communities across the country, as well as in more than 70 countries around the world.

In addition to creating and revamping affordable housing options, the organization also works alongside local governments to push for policies that encourage more affordable housing.

If interested in applying for homeownership, volunteering or donating to the cause, click here. Those looking to get involved with Habitat Orlando and Osceola can click here.

Housing ‘superstar’ Josh Vizcaino

In 2019, Josh Vizcaino joined the team at The Neighborhood Center of West Volusia and was quickly promoted to chief housing director. Through the one-stop social service agency, Vizcaino has been able to find housing for more than 100 families in the past year.

The Neighborhood Center of West Volusia’s mission is to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless and prevent homelessness. The organization does so by offering assistance on rent and utilities, providing emergency and transitional housing and other services, including crisis counseling and life skills groups, as well as clothing vouchers, dental assistance, medication assistance, bus passes, pet food and hygiene products, according to its website.

To donate, find volunteer opportunities or apply for assistance, click here.

Orlando YIMBY

Yes in My Backyard, also known as YIMBY Action, is an organization with a chapter in Central Florida currently fighting for more housing in the region. The group hopes to combat what many city and county leaders call NIMBY-ism, or not in my backyard.

According to the organization’s website, YIMBY is composed of a network of people who advocate for abundant, affordable housing and inclusive, sustainable communities.

The local co-chair says members of the group say yes to more housing, as opposed to NIMBY, which does not want affordable housing going up where they live.

“It’s yes to all housing, yes to affordable housing, yes to market-rate housing,” co-chair Austin Valle said.

Orlando YIMBY hopes to be that solution by taking a three-pronged approach:

  • Being proactive by helping to change zoning and planning laws at the city and county levels
  • Being reactive by publicly speaking at city and planning meetings to speak in favor of developments with strong opposition
  • Providing education for residents about the benefits of more housing

Learn more about the organization and the action its taking to make affordable housing more attainable here.

State Rep. Anna Eskamani

One state legislator who has been leading the fight for more affordable housing in the region is Rep. Anna Eskamani, a Democrat who represents House District 47. She has done so by supporting policies that promote affordable housing in Tallahassee by making known the importance of renters rights and local government policies and the role they play in determining housing opportunities. According to her website, she also played a role in adding Tiny Homes into the Florida Building Commission’s code, something seen as one solution to the affordable housing crisis.

Recently, Eskamani held a virtual town hall to help connect residents who have faced struggles when it comes to finding affordable housing with local experts on the matter. She also used the event as an opportunity to hear from those who have experienced housing issues first-hand to help better address them moving forward.

West Lake Partnership

West Lakes Partnership, Inc.’s goal is to achieve stability, power and generational wealth through its community development initiative, which is funded privately through a combination of private donations, board giving and development fees.

The nonprofit is focused on increasing home ownership opportunities in the West Lakes neighborhood and does so by constructing new and rehabilitating older, vacant single family homes. WLP also focuses on community engagement to make sure residents’ voices are heard when it comes to the development around them, community beautification and employment and financial services.

Learn more about the organization here.

Solutionaries” is a new digital show that focuses on solutions-based journalism.

Episode 2, which tackles affordable housing and highlights those working to solve the crisis, drops Sept. 20.

You can watch Episode 1, “Policing in America,” here.