On Friday, Orange County continued their fight against the affordable housing crisis with a meeting of their task force consisting of dozens of local leaders from various private and public sectors, and a tour of small communities of affordable housing in the area.
These actions are commendable. Leaders and public awareness of the affordable crisis is finally where it needs to be to bring change to a rapidly growing community, but while ceremony keeps the problem in the public eye, developer habits and a development fatigued community will stand in the way of progress.
The relationship between developers and local city councils and commissions has always been a complicated one. An ongoing tug of war between growing and ensuring that growth is conducted responsibly. An X-factor is the monetary investment by developers into political campaigning. If an official won’t see things a developer’s way, then the money will flow towards their opponent.
Any new conditions or requirements implemented by the task force may conflict with developers who are used to doing business in Orange County a certain way, who may walk away or simply circumvent those requirements. If they walk away, those are jobs lost to the community as well.
Then we have a community that is “developed-out”. These are residents across the tri-county area that are frustrated by traffic density on the roads and the rapidly depleting area of a “rural experience” many of them come to Central Florida to seek out.
These residents will say “no” to any housing. Regardless of how bad the need for affordable housing is. They’ll tell elected officials to send those projects elsewhere.
What are the solutions? They’re difficult to come by. The task has been called “daunting” and it is.
The earned media sprint will have to continue to compel those suffering from the lack of affordable housing to pick up the phone and change the local culture surrounding development.
Infrastructure must continue to improve to convince tired residents that additional housing won’t make their commute to work longer or that their residential experience won’t deteriorate as the rapid growth continues.
It won’t be easy, but we’re talking about it. And that’s a start.