Have an affordable housing idea? Seminole County seeking public input

County is getting $3M from federal government

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – Rising rent, rising prices, and fewer options have Floridians in need and the organizations that help them looking for housing solutions.

With approximately $3 million in federal funding administered through the HUD Home American Rescue Plan Act, the county is now asking for the public’s input on best to use the money locally.

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Allison Thall, the director of community services in Seminole County, said this allocation is a big jump for the county financially. The typical allocation on an annual basis is between $700,000 to $800,000.

“This $3 million I think will make a substantial impact to our residents,” Thall said.

The grant funds are administered through HUD’s HOME Investment Partnerships Program. There are specific ways the money can be spent:

    • Production or Preservation of Affordable Housing
    • Tenant-Based Rental Assistance (TBRA)
    • Supportive Services, including services defined at 24 CFR 578.53(e), homeless prevention services, and housing counseling.
    • Purchase and Development of a Non-Congregate Shelter. These structures can remain in use as non-congregate shelter or can be converted to:
      • 1) Emergency shelter under the Emergency Solutions Grant program;
      • 2) Permanent housing under the Continuum of Care; or
      • 3) Affordable housing under the HOME Program

“Every one of them are a need, and that is why we are seeking public input,” Thall said.

Thall says homelessness is prevalent in Seminole County. They manage it the best they can, but say the challenge is that more help is always needed.

“I’m going to say there’s almost never enough, because individuals are moving in regularly, and they’re finding that it’s costing more to live than they anticipated, or they’re moving down here as an elderly person on a limited income and finding that, of course, the cost of housing right now is just unattainable for them,” Thall said.

Matt Borchelt with The Sharing Center in Longwood sees the need on a firsthand basis daily. The organization has become the most comprehensive social services hub in Seminole County.

“We’ve seen such an increase in people needing help and financial assistance for their rent and utilities,” Borchelt said.

Borchelt said last year they helped 18,000 individuals campus wide, about a 30% increase from the year before. They’re now helping up to 70 people every day.

“It only takes one unexpected medical bill or child sickness or something like that,” Borchelt said.

Borchelt showed News 6 around the new, expanded campus that aims to balance the growing number of people who need help, and the resources to go around.

“The number one thing we need is attainable housing. I don’t even call it affordable housing anymore,” Borchelt said. “We just need attainable housing people can move into and budget and keep.”

The monthly rent payment for a 2-bedroom apartment in Longwood, where The Sharing Center is located, is up 9% according to Rent.com. Data shows the majority of units in the city cost more than $2,100 each month.

“The need is very real, and I don’t see it going away in the near future,” Thall said.

Thall said the federal funding is an opportunity to make a difference.

“These programs are designed to truly help those individuals to find, maintain, and sustain affordable housing,” Thall said.

Residents in Seminole County can provide feedback by Friday, Jan. 27. More information about how to weigh in or learn more are below:

  • Residents and community leaders should visit SeminoleCountyFL.gov/HOMEARPA before Friday, Jan. 27, to provide feedback by way of a survey to help create a community-driven plan for these catalyst funds.
  • In addition, interested parties may attend a virtual education presentation on Wednesday, Jan. 25, from 2:30 to 3 p.m. to better understand how Seminole County receives these funds and how funds can be used.
  • Register for the virtual presentation at HOMEARPA.eventbrite.com.

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About the Author:

Catherine, born and raised in Central Florida, joined News 6 in April 2022.