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An affordable housing organization is planning an expansion to its Clermont senior development, which officials see as another step in addressing the need for less expensive apartments in the rapidly growing South Lake area.

The Lake County Commission recently approved a rezoning request from Provident Housing Solutions of Apopka for 7.75 acres on Hunt Trace Boulevard, just north of S.R. 50.

The approval is the first step in building another 49 apartments next to Clermont Ridge Senior Villas, which is expected to open its 70 units in the first quarter of 2021.

“Even before we broke ground on Clermont Ridge, I was getting calls from people interested in moving there,” said Steve Smith, who heads Provident Housing. “There is a great need in Central Florida.”

Smith next plans to close on the sale of the rezoned land and seek state and federal funds to start the development, with a goal of breaking ground on the new phase in 2022. Highland Engineering is the civil engineer.

The apartments in Clermont Ridge are all one bedroom with about 650 square feet. They will rent for about $700 a month to people 62 and older with limited incomes — at present under $30,000 a year. The second phase will be a stand alone community with a separate entrance from Hunt Trace Boulevard and an amenity center with a swimming pool overlooking Jacks Lake.

“We decided to expand because 70 units just wasn’t enough,” said Smith, who is the founder and former head of New Beginnings, a faith-based nonprofit serving the area’s homeless, hungry and poor. “Seniors, especially widows, are having a hard time surviving.

The land for the expansion is adjacent to the 6 acres already under construction, but Smith needed County Commission approval to change the zoning from Agriculture to Planned Unit Development, which allows for 7 units an acre. Smith also needed a waiver, because the lot did not meet the minimum 10-acre requirement for the PUD designation.

The commission unanimously approved the change at its April 21 meeting.

“There have been some projects designated for seniors on the north part of the county, but there seems to an ongoing issue as far as a definite need for having housing that is affordable for our senior population,” Commission Chairman Leslie Champione said at the meeting.

John Cutter is the Lake Sentinel editor. Reach him at Follow us on