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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019 2 months ago

Orange County task force drafts affordable housing plan

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The 10-year plan aims to create more affordable housing options and accommodate growth.
by: Tim Freed Managing Editor

A plan is taking shape that would create more affordable housing in Orange County over the next decade.

The county’s Housing for All task force concluded its final meeting Nov. 15, which culminated in a draft 10-year action plan to address housing affordability and supply. 

Orange County seeks to do this through the plan by “removing regulatory barriers, creating new financial resources, targeting areas of access and opportunity, and engaging the community and industry,” according to the the Orange County Government website.

According to a summary posted by Orange County, over the next decade the plan aims to preserve and create 30,300 affordable and attainable housing units — 35% of the total number of units projected to be developed in Orange County.

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings spoke about the plan and what Orange County hopes it accomplishes at a press conference Nov. 15.

“We are committed here in Orange County to change the direction of accessible housing, because everyone deserves a safe and affordable place to live and raise a family,” Demings said.

The plan recommends removing regulatory barriers to affordable housing by expanding the types of housing being built, modifying code and policies to increase housing development opportunities, and establishing “zoning incentive areas” in exchange for affordable and attainable housing units in specific areas.

“Part of the plan is to introduce into our housing market a different type of housing that has a lower price point — that is something that can occur as we change our land-use plans, our comprehensive plans and even the architecture of the homes themselves,” Demings said.

Orange County hopes to add more financial resources by creating a housing trust fund, initiating a study to evaluate the feasibility of a linkage fee for the region and providing nonprofit developers with access to low-interest loans for affordable housing construction.

“There’s a recommendation in this report to create a land trust with funds that could be used to do various things to help stabilize rent costs or assist individuals who are chronically rent stressed,” Demings said. “I fully intend to go to our corporate community and ask them to support — in a financial way — that fund. Because we are just receiving the draft report today, we still have to work out the mechanics of how that will actually work in this community.”

In regard to targeting areas of access and opportunity, the county is considering housing development incentives in areas close to transit and jobs, along with promoting county-owned land and potentially acquiring more land for future construction.

Engagement — the last of four recommendations — would involve partnering with stakeholders to increase awareness of housing priorities and solutions.

Demings launched the Housing for All task force back in April in an effort to solve the area’s perceived affordable housing crisis. The task force was led by co-chairs Allan Keen and Terry Prather and included 36 members from the community

“In Orange County we have over 110,000 households that are cost burdened, with the average cost of homes at $290,000 and average rent for apartments between $1,200 and $1,500 a month,” Demings said. “We don’t have a housing crisis in Orange County — we have a housing affordability crisis. The body has studied the issue for the past eight months along with the tools and strategies that can move the needle on this crisis.”

Tim Freed is the Managing Editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Windermere Observer. He previously spent six years covering the Winter Park/Maitland area and is a graduate of the University of Central Florida....

See All Articles by Tim

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