East Central Florida 2060 Plan to Promote High-Density Multifamily

A new Strategic Regional Policy Plan--known as an SRPP to policy wonks, but more widely the East Central Florida 2060 Plan--is now being finalized.

Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor

A new Strategic Regional Policy Plan– known as an SRPP to policy wonks, but more widely the East Central Florida 2060 Plan–is now being finalized, with potential long-term implications for multifamily development in that part of the state, which includes the populous metro Orlando. (Long-term indeed: “2060” refers to the year 2060.) The plan is currently in the public comment phase, and will probably be adopted this fall.

There are 11 Regional Planning Councils in Florida, and by state law one of their functions is to create a Strategic Regional Policy Plan. The plan must address five topics, including affordable housing, economic development, emergency preparedness, natural resources of regional significance and regional transportation.

The current east-central Florida plan was put in place in 1998. The new plan, a draft of which has been examined by MHN, deals extensively with affordable housing, and recommends what can be done to increase the number of high-density housing units (largely in a affordable multifamily context) in east-central Florida.

The problem of affordable workforce housing still persists in that part of the state, according to the plan. This despite the popping of the residential real estate bubble that saw the median price of a home in metro Orlando drop from about $264,400 in 2007 to $123,000 only two years later. The supply of affordable nevertheless remains constrained.

One important factor in the paucity of affordable housing, the plan notes, is public perception: “It is not uncommon to find strong public support for environmental, traffic and open space programs that curb the effects of sprawl,” the plan says. “Yet proposals that serve to attack sprawl such as infill development, cluster and mixed-use development, and high-density rental housing often meet intense community opposition. Overcoming this impediment and changing attitudes will be necessary to achieve successful projects.”

The Central Florida 2050 Plan calls for more compact development patterns that offer urban-center amenities connected by transit corridors. These transit corridors would serve as focuses of redevelopment, including a variety of mixed-use properties that include multifamily housing, much of which would be geared toward workforce housing.

The plan posits that the essence of “smart growth” in east-central Florida doesn’t mean “no growth.” Instead, it “promotes the redevelopment of downtowns and the revitalization of neighborhoods where much of the affordable housing stock already exists. It encourages compact development that offers a mix of uses and transportation alternatives, which in turn creates well-designed communities that cater to a variety of incomes and lifestyles.”

Fine sentiments, but the plan also recommends a variety of ways of paying for its vision of affordable and other high-density multifamily housing, and cites a number of existing examples.

One of these examples is City View at Hughes Square, a mixed-use, mixed-income development in downtown Orlando. It consists of 266 rental units, 23,000 square feet of neighborhood shopping and a number of other amenities. Ten percent of the total units are reserved for those at 50 percent of area median household income; 30 percent are reserved for those at 60 percent of median income; and 10 percent are reserved for those at 120 percent of median. The project was jointly developed by Bank of America Community Development Corp. and the nonprofit Orlando Neighborhood Improvement Corp.

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