Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs spearheaded a second Regional Affordable Housing Workshop hosted by Osceola County on Oct. 18 at the Osceola Board of County Commissioners Chambers. The workshop explored creative affordable housing types and showcased various affordable housing products built throughout the state. Attendees also had the opportunity of viewing a model of a tiny home on display at the Osceola County Administration’s courtyard.
“The lack of affordable housing affects our entire nation,” Mayor Jacobs said. “According to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, there is not a single state in the U.S. where a full-time minimum wage worker can afford a one-bedroom apartment at the fair market rent. Not one. Locally, and like many communities throughout the nation, we’ve seen this problem intensify since the end of the recession.”
A regional approach is imperative to exploring affordable housing solutions in Central Florida. Two years ago, Mayor Jacobs convened partners from Orange, Seminole, Osceola County, and the City of Orlando to engage in this important regional initiative. From private sector developers, to government planners, the finance and banking industries, academia and the social services sector, the tri-county area is committed to a collaborative affordable housing approach.
The workshop highlighted different affordable housing products, local government experience and strategies and insight from the private sector.
“There’s a fundamental mismatch on what’s out there in the market and what the actual needs are,” said Susan Caswell, assistant community development administrator of Osceola County. “We need more affordable housing – and by encouraging a variety of housing types for different household compositions and different incomes, we should be able to increase affordable housing options.”
One challenge is that builders think bigger is always better. For example, in 1950, the average home size was 983 square feet. Today, that has grown to 2,600-square-foot, and there are fewer people living in the home per square foot.
Orange County Planning Manager Alberto Vargas spoke about affordable housing trends and how neighborhoods could still be affordable and preserve the neighborhood’s character. He stressed the importance of affordable housing and its proximity to transit, services, jobs, schools and daycares. Additionally, Vargas highlighted Orange County’s new Orange Code, which represents a radically simplified and sustainable way to govern how land is developed.
“From co-housing models to innovative design, as well as the use of imaginative products and building concepts, we have the chance to make history by creating a marketplace with a variety of high-quality affordable housing options,” said Vargas.
There should be enough affordable housing options in the inventory to meet the market demand. Regional partners will continue to tackle this issue in the final workshop planned for the first quarter of 2018 with the location announced at a later date. To view the presentations and a video of the workshop, visit www.ocfl.net/HousingWorkshop.