In almost any discussion of improving conditions for the residents of South Apopka, affordable housing is at the top of the list.
Penny Seater, the Executive Director for the Seminole County/Greater Apopka Habitat for Humanity, explained why at a Townhall for Homes meeting held at the John Bridges Center in South Apopka Friday morning and sponsored by Habitat.
"In the greater Apopka area, 16% of families live below the poverty line," she said. "And 62% are spending up to 50% of their income on housing. The average 2-bedroom apartment in Apopka costs $1,000. On minimum wage, a person would have to work two and a half jobs to manage that cost. In some cases they have to decide between groceries and prescription drugs. Saving for a down payment is out of the question."
Seater went on to explain that homeowners are healthier, their children are more likely to graduate high school and go to college.
"No matter who you are or where you come from you deserve a good life. Every one of us deserves a better opportunity."
And 58 families in South Apopka are about to receive that opportunity.
At the meeting, attended by over 100 Apopka residents, elected officials and community leaders, Habitat announced its intention to build two affordable housing communities - Juniper Bend and Arbor Bend.
Combined, the two projects will account for a 58-home community that will be developed in South Apopka located near 13th Street and Washington Avenue. This development represents a joint effort between Orange County Government, Homes in Partnership (HIP), Habitat for Humanity of Seminole County and Greater Apopka, and Habitat for Humanity of Greater Orlando.
The site location was previously known as Hawthorne Village Apartments, an 84-unit farmworker complex located on 12 acres that had become dilapidated. In 2003, the title to the property was transferred from the Orlando Housing Authority to HIP. Engineering assessments determined that it would be cost prohibitive to renovate the complex. In 2006, HIP demolished the building on the property and began the process of redevelopment. The organization held community meetings to develop a vision based on community input. The result of which was the concept of affordable, single-family homes.
The preliminary subdivision plan was approved by the Orange County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) in September 2008. Due to a confluence of issues, such as the recession, the housing market collapse, and financial constraints, the project was put on hold.
However, in 2016, thanks to new partnerships, the project resumed and started taking shape again. Orange County, HIP, Habitat Seminole-Apopka, and Habitat Orlando all collaborated to make this concept a reality. Orange County will contribute $724,000 of INVEST funds for construction activities. HIP will act as the developer of the project and will complete the site development work creating 56 buildable lots. Both Habitat organizations will purchase the lots from HIP for $14,000 per lot, which will reimburse HIP for its expenses in getting the property ready for development. The Habitat organizations received Community Development Block Grant funds to cover the cost of purchasing the lots. The agreements with both Habitat organizations will go before the BCC in March for approval.
For this new development, Habitat Orlando will construct 34 of the homes in Arbor Bend and Habitat Seminole-Apopka will build 24 homes in Juniper Bend. The approximate size of the houses will be 1,079 to 1,510 square feet and will be anywhere from three to five bedrooms with one to two baths. The fair market value for the homes will be around $140,000 to $154,000.
There are certain eligibility requirements that homebuyers must meet to qualify for this program. Homebuyer income must be 30% to 80% of the median income for the Orlando Metropolitan Area. In addition, homebuyers must complete 200 to 400 hours of “sweat equity,” complete homebuyer education classes, have no more than $2,000 in collections, and be able to save $3,000 for closing costs. For more information, please refer to habitatseminoleapopka.org.
The groundbreaking ceremony will be on March 16th from 9AM-10AM at 1221 South Washington Avenue in Apopka.