Our rent is skyrocketing and, as a result, we continue to need more affordable housing options. But what does it mean exactly for housing to be “affordable”? And what is our city doing to help those who can’t afford a roof over their heads? We break down the answers to those questions and more below.
What is “affordable housing”? By definition, “affordable housing” is essentially housing that is affordable based on a person’s income. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), a dwelling is deemed affordable if a household spends 30 percent or less of its income on housing costs. Households spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing are considered rent-burdened and could struggle to afford necessities like food, clothing, transportation and medical care.
Orlando, by the numbers. In Orlando, about one in every three households spends more than 30 percent of their income on housing, and experts say we need about 45,000 more affordable units to meet the growing demand. As things stand today, only one in four families who qualify for public housing assistance in the country actually get it; leaving the rest to fend for themselves while remaining on a never-ending, or four-year, waitlist.
Why isn’t more affordable housing being built? It’s expensive to build housing, and developers are unlikely to rent units at an affordable rate unless incentivized. The City of Orlando has implemented various strategies for addressing this while also controlling the cost of housing, including inclusionary zoning, mixed-income buildings, housing vouchers, and as recently seen in the news, community land trusts.
WTF is the Central Florida Land Trust? Land is acquired by a nonprofit, community-based organization — in this specific case, it’s through the Central Florida Foundation. When home buyers purchase a home on a land trust, they own everything above ground while the organization retains ownership of the land, thus making home ownership more affordable. When the home buyer sells their home, they earn a portion of the increased property value while the remainder goes into a trust. The thinking behind this is that the trust will protect future residents by preserving the affordability of the land. There are a number of land trusts in Central Florida, with the oldest one being the Hannibal Square Land Trust in Winter Park and the latest one in the news being the Central Florida Land Trust which has begun working in the Parramore community.
What is currently being done by our city government to address affordable housing? According to City of Orlando Public Information Officer, Karyn Barber, a few key ways the city has been addressing our affordable housing crisis is through the development of new affordable multi-family units or acquiring and re-developing troubled and foreclosed property. It has committed close to $10 million to build new single-family homes in the Parramore Community, with the help of a CRA, along with implementing a new down payment assistance program, providing residents with up to $100,000 in down payment assistance.
Who are examples of people who need affordable housing? The truth is that everyone from police officers to single moms to non-profit workers and theme park employees is struggling to find affordable housing. People in gentrifying neighborhoods find it harder to compete with rising rents if they don’t already own the home.
Who is working to address affordable housing solutions in Orlando? Organizations such as Central Florida Foundation, New Beginnings of Central Florida, The Sadowski Act, and Florida Housing Coalition are all working on finding and creating affordable housing opportunities for Orlandoans by connecting them to government subsidies, pushing for more construction, and offering rental assistance.
I think I qualify. Where do I apply? You can start by visiting the HUD website for Florida or reaching out to a housing advocacy organization (see list above). Due to the current government shutdown, HUD is closed, so until the shutdown is over, you can’t expect a reply.
I don’t qualify, but I know someone who does. How can I help? Find out who your local elected officials are that are working in housing. Demand a seat at the table. Attend meetings. Learn more about what can be done in our state and in our city, then do what you can to move progress forward.
» Want to learn more about Orlando’s housing crisis and all the numbers reflecting the need for affordable housing? Check out our first post on housing in Orlando, and tell us all your deep down honest questions about Orlando housing here.