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Planning Association Recognizes Affordable Housing Efforts


Released By Osceola County Public Information Office

A Regional Affordable Housing Initiative that brought together developers and local government leaders to explore affordable housing solutions for Central Florida has been selected for an American Planning Association Florida “Award of Excellence” in the Best Practices category.

Osceola, Orange and Seminole counties (and the City of Orlando) launched the initiative with a Summit in 2016. The counties subsequently hosted Affordable Housing Workshops in an effort to focus on strategies, tools and best practices being implemented throughout Florida and across the country on what has been deemed a national crisis – the need to create an inclusive housing market that makes communities sustainable.

“The collective experience gained from this initiative established the realization that the only way to move forward is to create a regional approach that addresses affordable housing needs,” said Osceola County Commission Chairwoman Cheryl Grieb. “When you look at the challenges we all face, the need for collaboration, cooperation and commitment is the only way to guarantee that our most vulnerable residents can enjoy the quality of life that often eludes them. All too often, strained budgets and resources mean they are particularly vulnerable to the threat of homelessness.”

Affordable housing options include mixed-use/mixed-income neighborhoods, transit-oriented developments and various housing prototypes. In Osceola County, Cameron Preserve – a 100-unit apartment complex that opened in May – is an innovative public-private partnership between Osceola County, the Parramore Construction Company, Inc. and the Florida Housing Finance Corporation, which resulted in affordable rental units to transition families out of hotels and homelessness.

“Cameron Preserve provides a wonderful sense of place and space for our families and children…a place that is safe, clean and secure, and where vulnerable families can re-build for the future,” Grieb said in May. Removing the land cost with the County’s contribution of approximately 9 acres, improved the development’s initial feasibility and ongoing financial stability.

Taking a holistic approach, Cameron Preserve offers a number of resident programs, such as employment assistance programs, health and wellness services, financial management programs, and on-site food programs. The location off of U.S.  Highway 192 means transportation, employment opportunities, schools, shopping and recreational facilities are all close to residents.

According to the University of Florida’s Shimberg Center for Housing Studies 2016 Rental Market Study Report, the Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) has a deficiency of 33,577 units for very low income households — the third highest deficiency in the state.

As the second fastest growing county in Florida, Osceola’s needs are only going to increase along with our population, officials said. The award will be presented at the APA’s state conference this fall. The highest honor, an Award of Excellence, is bestowed for projects that exhibit excellence in nearly every aspect of their planning and execution. Generally, only one Award of Excellence is granted per category each year. The Best Practices Award emphasizes results and demonstrates how innovative and state-of-the-art planning methods and practices helped to implement a plan.