County earmarks $1M for affordable housing

By Rachel Christian Staff Writer Osceola County appropriated $1 million Monday night to assist with affordable housing. It is the latest in a series of measures meant to address a severe lack of low-income housing. Metro Orlando – which includes Osceola, Orange, Lake and Seminole counties – ranks third nationally for its shortage of rentals

By Rachel Christian

Staff Writer

Osceola County appropriated $1 million Monday night to assist with affordable housing.

It is the latest in a series of measures meant to address a severe lack of low-income housing.

Metro Orlando – which includes Osceola, Orange, Lake and Seminole counties – ranks third nationally for its shortage of rentals that are affordable enough for the region’s lowest-income residents,

The Osceola County Commission on Monday approved spending $1 million for affordable housing.

according to an annual report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Of the top 50 metro areas nationally, only Las Vegas and Los Angeles had a greater shortage than Metro Orlando.

On Monday night, County Commission Chairman Fred Hawkins Jr. said the new affordable housing measure is a comprehensive package in line with the county’s strategic plan for affordable housing.

It aims to offset mobility fee increases that may drive away affordable housing developers.

It also allows certain incentives, such as low income tax credit developments, and gives commissioners authority to purchase land for future projects with the appropriated funds.

The appropriation won’t actually increase the county’s overall budget, Hawkins said. It simply moves money from one fund to another.

The original proposal called for a $707,520 appropriation. It included $321,600 for a 100-unit affordable housing complex called Los Altos Apartments, and $385,920 for a 120-unit senior living affordable development called PalosVerdes Apartments.

But Commissioners Viviana Janer and Peggy Choudhry both moved to round the figure up to $1 million to assist future projects.

Choudhry also said she wanted the measure to include alternative forms of housing, not just brand new developments.

“I’ve mentioned many times for a change of product, for example, from a hotel to tiny home studios,” she said. “As long as that’s all in the picture, then I’m good with it.”

With limited funding available from state and federal housing resources, local governments have moved to strengthen private-public partnerships with developers who can provide the kind of low-income housing the community needs, according to Monday’s addendum.

One reason the county is offering funds to Los Altos and Palos Verdes is to offset recent mobility and impact fee hikes approved by the County Commission earlier this year.

Originally, mobility fees for both projects were estimated at $527,400. That number is anticipated to jump to $997,100 under new mobility fee rates, according to the addendum.

Mobility fees help maintain roads and infrastructure around new developments.

But they can also drive away affordable housing developments, which have much smaller profit margins than other housing projects.

“The cost of impact fees can affect a development and cause a financial strain that could result in the development not being viable,” according to background information in the addendum. “The strain could also result in fewer developers pursuing opportunities to construct affordable housing.”

The money appropriated by the Commission is meant to offset this strain.