A six-acre site fronting Jacks Lake in Clermont is expected to become home to a 70-unit senior living project that could help alleviate central Florida's shortage of affordable housing.
Provident Housing Solutions of Apopka has applied for environmental permits to construct an 11-building complex using federal and state funding. Provident is led by Steve Smith, the founder and former head of New Beginnings, a faith-based nonprofit serving the area's homeless, hungry and poor.
"There is nothing reasonably priced out there for seniors. That's what spurred the idea," said Smith. "Demand exceeds supply for affordable housing."
Clermont Ridge Senior Villas would run from Hunt Trace Boulevard on the south to the lakefront on the north, just west of Oakley Seaver Drive. The one-bedroom townhouse-style apartments would be a minimum of 630 square feet.
Tenants would be restricted to age 62 and older and would pay rents about 40 percent below market rates. For assisted housing, nonprofit owners accept restrictions on tenant incomes and rents in exchange for government subsidies such as the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, the State Apartment Incentive Loan, or SAIL, and federal Housing and Urban Development mortgages and rental assistance. Private activity bond financing is also a strategy from state and local housing finance authorities.
Smith said the $14 million cost of the project will be covered by $11 million in federal funding and $3 million in state funding, all of which has been secured. September is the target date for construction.
Last year, Smith opened Woodwinds, a complex on South Grand Highway and Hunt Street. That facility has 24 one-bedroom, 48 two-bedroom, and 24 three-bedroom units and was the first affordable-housing complex built in Clermont in 17 years.
"The city is happy to expand affordable housing options in Clermont," said City Manager Darren Gray. "We know that it's one of the highest priorities in Central Florida, and we are actively working on ways to tackle it. Steve Smith launched a very successful affordable housing project in the city with Woodwinds, and we have encouraged him to do more projects like it."
Smith serves on the MidFlorida Homeless Coalition board and Lake County's Affordable Housing Advisory Committee. He said 550 seniors are now living in poverty in Clermont alone, and his projects address a growing problem in Florida.
In a report on affordable rental housing trends for the Orlando Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Lake counties, the Shimberg Center for Housing Studies at the University of Florida stated that "the growth in older households is not expected to slow any time soon. The Shimberg Center projects that the region will add 43,960 renter households age 65-plus between 2015 and 2040."
But it's not just a local issue. In another 2017 report, "Affordable Housing for Older Adults: The Florida Picture," the Shimberg Center concludes, "As the number of people aged 65 and over in Florida continues to increase over the coming years, there will be an increased need for both the preservation and construction of additional affordable housing for this population."
The center cites a shortage of 900,000 affordable housing units statewide.
At Clermont Ridge, the complex will feature a clubhouse and a pool with "lots of activities to try to keep the seniors as healthy as we can," Smith said. There's also a gazebo on the northern edge of the property, overlooking a decorative pond and the lakefront.
Blue Sky Communities is Provident's construction partner on the project. The civil engineer is Highland Engineering Inc. of Orlando, with Ekistics Design Studio of Tampa handling environmental. The architect is Powell Studio Architecture of Clermont, and the landscape architect is Dark Moss Landscape Architecture of Tampa. The surveyor is L&S Diversified Professional Surveyors and Mappers of Maitland.
Smith said he's waiting for approvals for a workforce housing complex in Lakeland and is working to secure additional sites for affordable housing.
"Money's not the issue," he said. "Any money we've made in these developments, we've put right back into other projects. We're not here to make money, but to reinvest and to create more."