As rent prices swell throughout Central Florida at a faster rate than elsewhere in the country, Wendover Housing Partners is looking to add to Sanford’s stock of affordable living options while addressing a food desert in the city’s historic Goldsboro neighborhood.
By this summer, the company expects to begin construction on its second apartment project on Olive Avenue where public housing projects once stood. That government-funded complex was razed in 2016 due to deplorable conditions, resulting in the displacement of hundreds of low-income tenants.
Several of these residents were able to return to a much nicer home when Wendover opened its 60-unit, three-building Monroe Landings apartment community here three months ago. Now, with Monroe Landings nearly full, the Altamonte Springs-based developer is gearing up to start Phase 2 and bring another 84 affordable units to the property next door. All of the units will be affordable according to criteria set by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The second phase of the apartment complex will carry a different name: Somerset Landings.
The two side-by-side apartment communities will share an entrance and an already open pool and clubhouse space.
Somerset Landings will include a playground and a large open field for recreational activities next to a community garden, according to site plans drafted by architecture firm Slocum Platts.
“All of these things encourage a sense of community,” Ryan von Weller, Wendover’s managing director of development, told GrowthSpotter. “And they encourage being outdoors, which we think is important for many reasons, especially for kids. We try (to) give space that is conducive to people interacting with one another now that COVID is hopefully on its way out.”
The community garden feature will allow residents to grow their own vegetables, von Weller said. He added that the clubhouse will come stocked with a pantry where residents can obtain goods and food.
When Goldsboro was incorporated as a town back in 1891, before it was forcibly annexed into the city just two decades later, it was the second All-Black township in the state, according to a 2017 report by the Sanford Housing Authority.
Today, Sanford’s Goldsboro neighborhood, located less than a mile from the city’s downtown district, is a predominately Black community with a poverty rate and an unemployment rate higher than the city and Seminole County average, the report states.
The area is also designated a food desert by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, meaning residents living here don’t have access to fresh and healthy food.
That’s another reason why Wendover is planning to make a community garden and food pantry available to tenants of the new apartments.
Von Weller said that the company has introduced the garden concept to some of its other properties nationwide to rave reviews. But it’s especially needed in Goldsboro, he added.
“There are some food desert issues in Goldsboro,” he said. “The older stores and businesses have left over the course of time. While the community is bringing back farmer’s markets and outreach programs, we are trying to streamline that process wherever we can.”
At the time of the 2017 Sanford Housing Authority report, the poverty rate in Goldsboro was 36% as compared to 23% in Sanford and 13% in Seminole County while the unemployment rate in Goldsboro was 26% versus 15% for the city and 10% for the county.
Meanwhile, rent rates are skyrocketing.
As of 2020, the Florida Housing Data Clearinghouse showed that among all income levels, more than 86,000 Orange County households spent more than half their monthly income on housing, along with nearly 27,000 in Seminole County and more than 17,400 in Osceola County.
An Orlando Sentinel analysis conducted in January found that zip code 32771, which is Sanford, saw a 12-month rise in average monthly rent from $1,730 in January 2021 to $2,015 in December 2021.
As of April, the Orlando metro area saw the second highest jump in rent year over year than anywhere else in the nation, according to data released by Apartments.com. Only Palm Beach saw a higher jump between April of 2021 and April of 2022 with an increase of 24%. According to the report, Orlando’s rent prices increased 23% during that timeframe.
The Somerset Landings apartment, expected to open sometime in 2023, will be 100% affordable, von Weller said.
The goal, von Weller added, is to provide homes for people who make less than the average annual median income. In Orlando, that rate was $80,100 in 2020, according to census data.
A person earning 60% of the median average annual income would pay $933 for a one-bedroom apartment, $1,120 a month for a 2-bedroom, or $1,293 a month for a 3-bedroom.
Von Weller said a portion of the financing for this project came from the state’s Sadowski fund, intended to help provide affordable housing.
Being able to provide more options for renters is “very rewarding,” von Weller said.
“You really see the impact this is making in a community,” he said. “You have mothers and daughters moving in who have never had access to a washer and dryer before and it brings them to tears. It’s rewarding, but it’s heartbreaking we can’t build more at one time.”
Wendover has also been tabbed by Universal Orlando to build 1,000 affordable housing units near its theme parks, next door to the Orange County Convention Center campus.
Von Weller said he’d like to see government bodies do more to incentive developers to incorporate affordable housing into multi-family housing projects.
“The need is so substantial,” he said. “People can’t catch up.”
Monroe Landings and Somerset Landings sit on 11 acres owned by the Sanford Housing Authority in the southwest quadrant of West Third Street and Olive Avenue. Public housing once occupied the site, but the low-income units were demolished in 2016 after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development deemed them uninhabitable. The Housing Authority leases the land to Wendover and is a partner in the development.
The Sanford Housing Authority could not be reached for comment.
Monroe Landings is part of the transformation plan for Goldsboro. The transformation plan, which will include commercial as well as residential redevelopment, was the product of a planning process that involved more than 300 residents and community stakeholders, according to the project’s website. The community worked together to envision the community’s future through seven working groups that each met 10 times, plus four community-wide information fairs that attracted over 200 residents.
Wendover is involved in three other housing projects in the area. Warley Park, also in Sanford, provides 81 affordable housing units for the homeless or those at a high risk of being homeless. A similar project, Durham Place, is under construction in Orlando.
Wendover also recently completed Burlington Cove in Sanford. That community provides 68 affordable units for tenants 55 and older.