Oct. 05--Affordable housing efforts in Central Florida -- one of the nation's most challenged regions for low-income housing needs -- got a $5 million boost Thursday from JP Morgan Chase.
The funds come just as the region braces for what is likely to be an influx of residents relocating from hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.
Former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez, who got his political start in Orlando and now oversees the Southeast for JP Morgan, led Thursday's announcement by saying Central Florida would become the nation's top community to assist Puerto Rican evacuees. Orange County has the country's third largest population from the island nation, Census records show.
"And so while we do have a problem now, this problem isn't going to be any easier in the months to come than it has been in the past," Martinez told an audience of about 150 affordable housing officials and executives gathered Thursday morning at the Orlando First Presbyterian Church for the announcement.
Mayors Buddy Dyer and Teresa Jacobs spoke in support of efforts to make the region affordable to anyone who wants to live in it.
Metro Orlando, which includes Orange, Seminole, Lake and Osceola counties, ranked third nationally for its lack of housing for extremely low-income residents, a study released earlier this year shows. Few places in the country have enough rentals for income-challenged residents but Orlando's shortage is twice as severe as the nation's, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
Two financial groups -- Florida Community Loan Fund and New Jersey Community Capital -- will determine how the funds will be distributed over three years.
Part of the money will boost Crising Housing Solutions' plans to develop a shipping container community in Metro Orlando. In addition, funds will also go to the bulk purchase and renovation of distress properties, as well as purchasing and rehabbing apartment complexes.
Crisis Housing co-founder Craig Vanderlaan said he expects to have two Central Florida sites as soon as the end of this year for the container development. He said his group is still pursuing building a three-story project with 16 to 25 units on a half acre in downtown Orlando. He also mentioned Osceola County as a possible location.
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