Winter Park creates its own housing authority to address rampant housing issues |

Winter Park creates its own housing authority to address rampant housing issues

A resolution establishing a Winter Park Housing Authority was passed by the Winter Park Town Council at its regular meeting Wednesday night. The authority is meant to address a lack of safe and sanitary housing accommodations in the town by investigating the issue, making recommendations, financing and managing housing projects.

The town council requested that staff initiate the steps needed for the formation of a local authority last September, noting potential financial benefits and enhanced public transparency. The town received a petition signed by 25 Winter Park residents in December that called for the authority’s formation.

The authority comes largely as a result of a housing needs assessment study ran by the town in September 2015. The study concluded that “a shortage exists of housing at prices that are attainable by the workforce,” and identified three key issues driving the housing shortage.

The first issue is that real estate in Winter Park is largely made up of second homeowners. A large majority of home sales come from second and vacation home use, and residential units actually occupied by residents dropped 7 percent from 2000 to 2010, according to the study.

The second problem outlined is high housing development costs.

Recent analysis showed that total construction costs for stick-built houses — homes that are constructed on their intended site — are now higher than $350 per square-foot.

Finally, the cost of living is too high, according to the study, forcing Winter Park’s labor force to seek out cheaper options in Fraser or other areas in the county. Currently only 22 percent of the Winter Park workforce lives in the town.

The boundaries of the housing authority are the same as the municipal boundaries of the town, and the current members of the town council will be appointed as ex officio commissioners with terms running coterminous with their terms of office for the town council. Winter Park Mayor Jimmy Lahrman will serve as the chair of the commissioners for the authority.

Responsibilities for the authority’s commissioners include investigating housing conditions and means for improvement, making recommendations concerning the town plan, planning and providing financing for new housing projects, taking over housing projects undertaken by the town and more.

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