What does affordable housing look like in Winter Park?
The approval of Winter Park’s new comprehensive plan April 24 conjured deeper discussions of affordable housing from residents, who believe more needs to be done to preserve it.
“I think the document is inadequate in the areas of solutions for affordable housing,” said resident Jack Rogers, adding that reportedly many Rollins College professors can’t afford to live in the city.
“We need to have room for teachers, first-responders and for all of those people we need to have the diversity we need in the community of Winter Park. Please give that strong attention as you go forward.”
A vote by the Winter Park City Commission at its April 24 meeting struck workforce housing from the new Medical Arts District. City commissioners reasoned that the Medical Arts District already was densely packed and that allowing workforce housing in the area would give developers the option to take advantage and build huge projects.
“Our thinking was that it could be abused,” Commissioner Greg Seidel said. “The hospital doesn’t own all of that property, so a developer could come right in [and] say, ‘Hey, it says right here I can build this housing at this density, so I’m going to put apartments in.’”
Statistics point to the city having enough affordable homes. A study conducted by Andrew Dolkert, of Miami Economic Associates Inc., last year reported the city had a sufficient percentage among its single-family homes and condominiums: roughly 38%.
City Commissioner Carolyn Cooper said there’s plenty of affordable housing in the city. Apartment complexes such as the Lake Killarney Condominiums, Winter Park Village Apartments, Four Seasons Condominiums and Waterfall Cove are all viable options, she said.
The city should focus on preserving the affordable housing that already exists in the West Side of Winter Park, she said.
“Those people have been part of our community for a long time, so to me, that’s very important,” Cooper said. “We have money in housing rehabilitation through CRA that offers to help people rehab and take care of aspects in the existing affordable housing so they continue to live there.”
Seidel added that although the city determined it has enough affordable housing, the turnover might be another story, he said.
“You have people who’ve been living in these houses for 50, 40 or 30 years,” Seidel said. “We may have a bunch of affordable housing, but when is it available? What I’ve proposed is having smaller lots in Hannibal Square. If you have smaller lots and smaller houses, they’re more affordable.”
Affordable apartments may be becoming more prevalent than affordable houses. Winter Park lost a handful of affordable homes in 2015 along Lee Road, when a project of about 30 $500,000 town houses was approved to take its place. A neighborhood of 16 families — all paying between $700 and $800 to live in their duplexes — were forced to live elsewhere.
“We’re between a rock and a hard place,” resident Perry Pryor said shortly before that project was approved. “Our income is not going to be able to (pay to) live in housing more than $800 a month. There’s nothing concrete right now.”
Bee Epley, a resident in the Lake Killarney Condominiums, said parts of her complex could be next. Multiple developers have inquired of Lake Killarney condo owners whether they would be willing to sell so new development can take its place.
“It’s preyed upon,” Epley said. “We don’t want to be torn down. We want to preserve them.”
But that doesn’t mean Winter Park is sitting idle. They’ve financially supported entities such as Habitat for Humanity of Winter Park-Maitland, the Hannibal Square Land Trust and the Winter Park Housing Authority over the years. Those organizations have made it their mission to preserve the quality and affordability of housing in Winter Park.