Orange County prepares to build 4 new affordable housing complexes, to help 525 families

The county is dedicating $13 million

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – A project to bring four new affordable housing complexes to Orange County has hit its final stages, with developers preparing to break ground.

“We don’t have a housing crisis in Orange County, we have a housing affordability crisis,” Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said in a press conference in November 2019.

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Mitchell Glasser, Housing and Development Division manager for the county, said the project comes after a three-year discussion on how to fix Orange County’s affordable housing crisis. The project will ultimately help 525 families find decent, affordable homes, Glasser said.

In 2019, Orange County launched the Housing for All task force, which recommended the county should invest funding in affordable housing. By early 2020, the Orange County Board of County Commissioners voted to put $10 million dollars into a Housing Trust Fund each year. That money is now being poured into the four projects announced.

“We are the only one with a Trust Fund of this size,” Glasser said. “In Orange County, we have taken the issue seriously and we are doing something about it.”

Orange County officials approved four competitive developer bids from each of the following projects:

  • Banyan Development Group, Orlando-based
    • $31.5 million project to build 156 units near at the northeast corner of West Colonial and North Pine Hills Road, walking distance to Barnett Park.
  • Emerald Villas Phase 3, Miami-based
    • $21.6 million project to build 90 units adjacent to an affordable housing community for 55-and-older seniors near Evans High School in Pine Hills.
  • Southwick Commons, Orlando-based
    • $52.8 million project to build 195 units located at 461 E. 7th Street in Apopka’s City Center development area.
  • The Enclave at Canopy Park, Orlando-based
    • $23 million project to build 84 units at the southeast corner of 45th Street and Rio Grande Avenue.

“They’re all in different locations,” Glasser said. “Some are in northwest Orange County, some are closer to downtown or near Barnett Park. The emphasis is really to spread the opportunity for people to find affordable housing near where they work and have good access to services and transportation.”

Glasser also said, with the additional struggles families may face during the pandemic, the county challenged the developers to lower the barriers for 25% of their units so more families can qualify.

“For these units, if you had one eviction on your record, it would not necessarily forbid or enable you not to live there,” he said. “You have bad credit? It would look at other things than your credit report, not just the score.”

It’s also a big return on investment for the county, Glasser said.

“All of those developments together are about $129 million,” he said. “We’re investing $13 million.”

But, he said, it’s an even bigger return for 525 families in need of affordable housing.

“This is not subsidized housing, this is not public housing, this is not Section 8,” Glasser said. “These are hardworking people that live in our community like us and do the same things that we do.”

Once construction begins on each project, Glasser said it will take about 18 months to complete.