Habitat Orlando Breaks Ground on Its First Multifamily Project in Central Florida

By Anuradha Kher, Online News EditorOrlando, Fla.–Habitat Orlando recently broke ground on one of its biggest homebuilding efforts to date, Staghorn Villas, an $8 million townhome community that will provide affordable housing for 58 local families. This is also Habitat’s first multifamily project in central Florida.When complete in the spring of 2011, the 3.9-acre townhome community will feature 10 buildings, each of which include four to eight townhomes surrounded by green spaces and play areas. It is located at Silver Star Road and LeHavre Boulevard in Orlando.Habitat requires that all homeowners participate in building the community that they will live in. “We call it sweat equity and it requires 300 to 500 hours of commitment from people who live in our communities,” Dee Danmeyer, executive director of Habitat Orlando, tells MHN. “After spending all this time together, our homeowners look forward to being neighbors. This is one advantage of a multifamily project. In addition, we can make better use of our land by placing more families in homes than we usually could.”However, Danmeyer says Habitat Orlando will continue to build single-family projects for large families and families with special needs. Residents of any Habitat community must fulfill three criteria: they should be in need for affordable housing due to their current home being overcrowded or in disrepair; they must be willing to commit to home equity and their credit report must indicate that they can make mortgage payments. “We provide no-interest mortgages to our homeowners so the mortgages are our responsibility and anyone’s inability to make his or her payment affects our capacity to house someone else,” explains Dee. The residents of Staghorn Villas will pay a monthly mortgage between $550 and $600, which includes insurance and tax. As a city that has a significant population working in the service industry, the need for affordable housing is huge. “We are merely making a dent in this city,” says Danmeyer.Staghorn Villas has received $60,000 in energy-efficient features from the Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC) as well as  $30,000 from Siemens. In addition, Hannover Life Reassurance Company of America, CHEP and HD Supply are each donating $250,000 to help sponsor construction of the development.