Affordable housing discussed at town hall

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More than 80 people attended the town hall hosted by state representative Anna Eskamani at OneBlue Real Estate School on May 15. S.T. CARDINAL

More than 80 people attended the town hall hosted by state representative Anna Eskamani at OneBlue Real Estate School on May 15. S.T. CARDINAL

The average rent price in the 32801 area code is $1,611, according to the Zillow Rent Index. To follow the 30% rule a Downtown Orlando resident would need to make more than $45,000 a year.

“Traditionally, you’re not paying more than 30% of your income towards rent. But in today’s world, that’s almost impossible to do,” said Mitchell Glasser, a panelist and director of Housing and Community Development for Orange County. “And so a lot of people are paying, you know, between 30% and 40% of their income on housing expenses, and, when you add in transportation, it’s even more.”

Anna Eskamani, who represents Downtown Orlando in the Florida House of Representatives, hosted a town hall to discuss the lack of affordable housing and was a panelist. She talked about her personal experiences struggling to pay for rent in Downtown Orlando.

“I’m a renter, and I live with my twin sister and one other roommate. That’s how we make ends meet,” Eskamani said. “…[Orlando] is now comparable to rent in Los Angeles. I don’t know about you all, but, when I look out here, we’re not Los Angeles.”

Eskamani went on to talk about different possible solutions for bringing more affordable housing to Orlando, including bringing tiny homes, co-living environments and accessory dwelling units.

“There’s been a lot of conversation, too, around allowing our homeowners at a local level to be incentivized to provide affordable housing themselves,” Eskamani said. “And I love that idea because I do think developers obviously play a role in this. We need the private sector to be engaged, but the public wants to help, too.

“We have in our district so many duplexes and so many opportunities for that, and I think if we put in an incentivized program for homeowners to contribute to the quota of affordable housing units, it could be a gamechanger for us at a local level.”

More than 80 people attended the town hall at One- Blue Real Estate School on May 15. Attendees’ questions were read by former Belle Isle Mayor Lydia Pisano, who moderated the discussion.

One question raised: “What steps should Orange County and the City of Orlando take to ensure rent downtown and in the Parramore area is going to stay affordable for working families?”

Glasser talked about the different things the City of Orlando are doing to make homes in the Parramore area more affordable. One example was bringing the model called community land trusts, which are non-profit organizations that own the land and partner with developers to build houses on that land. The rent or purchase prices of the homes will be determined by the costs to build the housing, but costs of the land will be negated, causing lower prices, Glasser said.

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