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National program to increase affordable housing in Kissimmee

Posted on Tuesday, February 25, 2014 at 3:19 pm

By Tiffanie Reynolds
Staff Writer
In a few months, two families will be taken out of homelessness in Osceola County.
The city of Kissimmee, working with the Osceola County Council on Aging, is using funding from the U.S.

The city of Kissimmee plans to build a duplex of four bedroom houses on King Street in downtown Kissimmee to help homeless families.

The city of Kissimmee plans to build a duplex of four bedroom houses on King Street in downtown to help homeless families.

Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program to build a duplex of four bedroom houses on King Street in downtown Kissimmee. Once completed, the King Street Project will be donated to the Council on Aging, which will give the space for long-term affordable rental to two families in their family self-sufficiency program Building Strong Families.
The project will cost $240,000, but the duplex is expected to be built in 60 days. This is due to precast concrete walls, which is poured offsite and transported to the King Street location. Nancy Jewell, Community Development Block Grant coordinator for the city of Kissimmee, said that along with precast concrete, materials used for windows, doors and other major systems in the home will be energy efficient.
“They’re not only going to be affordable up front, but they are going to continue to be affordable to the occupants, whether or not they’re tenants or homeowners,” Jewell said.
This is the second time that the city of Kissimmee has received funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program. The funds are automatically given to cities or counties based on population, number of foreclosures and the number of low to moderate income households.
In 2011, the city qualified for $2.5 million to stabilize neighborhoods affected most by foreclosure. With the money, the city acquired 19 foreclosed homes in Mill Run and Lakeside Estates neighborhoods. Once all 19 houses were renovated, nine were given to the Council on Aging for long-term affordable renting and 10 were sold to income eligible buyers.
This year, the city originally wanted to use the funding to renovate and convert a hotel or motel along Vine Street into long-term rental housing. But, when they couldn’t find a hotel or motel owner willing to work with the program, the city decided to use the money to buy three foreclosed homes and build the duplex on King Street.
“The homes that we currently have from the city’s first NSP program have been very good. I mean, we’ve had a great response, a real mixture of people. We’re able to hit every target that we’re trying to do. We did some seniors in the smaller homes, we did veteran families and we also did disabled families. So, it’s been a nice mix, because normally we just do senior housing. This has really broadened who we can serve in the community,” said Wendy Ford, director of housing services at the Osceola Council on Aging.
With the first nine renovated homes that they received from the city, the Council on Aging has a list of 50 families from Building Stronger Families waiting for their opportunity to rent one of the homes. Due to the long waiting list, Ford said that the Council on Aging will chose two families already in the program as the first to move into the duplex.
For families to qualify in the Building Stronger Families program, they need to be making 50 percent of livable income, which means around $29,000 a year for a family of four or $33,950 for a family of six. They also must be residents of Osceola County with their children registered in a public, private or charter school in the county and currently be in transient housing or homeless. Building Stronger Families helps qualified families get back on their feet financially by assisting them with financial planning and a year-lease rental housing, when available, until the family has jobs and permanent housing of their own.
To continue to provide housing for the county’s low-income and homeless community, Jewell said that the city of Kissimmee and Osceola County are working on a consortium agreement to qualify for funding from the Home Investment Partnership Program. If obtained, the funds would be used to develop affordable housing in the community as well as assistance to affordable housing, such as down payment assistance.
“The partnership would allow us somewhere around total, combined funding between county and city near $600,000 per year,” Jewell said.
If the city and county can qualify, Jewell expects to receive the funds by March or April of 2015.