By Rachel Christian
A crowd gathered outside a new duplex unit in Kissimmee Friday morning to welcome home recipients of the city’s latest affordable housing initiative.
The properties, located on King Street near downtown Kissimmee, have been a long time coming. The city obtained the property in 2008 when the structure on site was dilapidated and inhabitable. Using funds from two federal Housing and Urban Development programs, the city of Kissimmee demolished the old building and hired
Black Street Enterprises to erect a new one in its place.
The duplex unit’s value is estimated at $345,000, and each side features four bedrooms and two bathrooms, as well as a spacious backyard.
The city partnered with the Osceola County Council on Aging to select the two families who would ultimately live in the new duplex. The nonprofit group will also act as the “landlord” after the families move in. The city will hand over control of the property to the Council on Aging, which will oversee the site and collect the monthly rent payment of $650.
The homes have strict income requirements and other restrictions that must be met in order to be approved. Under the federal program guidelines, the units must remain affordable for at least the next 20 years.
Housing and Community Program Coordinator Frances de Jesus said that by choosing a nonprofit agency like the Council on Aging to manage the units, the families don’t have to worry about a private entity raising the rent.
“That is the benefit of handing it over to them instead of a private company,” DeJesus said. “They can make sure the price stays low.”
DeJesus said the King Street project signals the end of the latest phase of Community Development Block Grants, which began with phase one in 2008.
DeJesus noted that the city of Kissimmee is looking to acquire other properties for future affordable housing endeavors.
“Over the next year, we should be on our way to the next project,” she said.
The units were specifically intended for larger families. Jasmine Sierra is the mother of five children and had been paying $950 for a two-bedroom apartment in Kissimmee. The new home will give Sierra and her children more room at a much lower monthly rate.
Patricia Gillian, mother of recipient Jinnie Gillian, was excited and grateful that the Council on Aging selected her daughter to receive one of the homes.
“She has been in and out of the hospital a lot,” Gillian said. “I think this is going to give her a sense of purpose, having her own place for her and her children.”