An effort to provide affordable home ownership opportunities in the downtown Parramore neighborhood is back on track, with Orlando's Community Redevelopment Agency stepping in to provide what could be an $8 million investment in 41 new homes.
A memorandum of understanding between the redevelopment agency and the Orlando Housing Authority (OHA) has been approved by the agency's advisory board and will be considered by the City Council on Monday. It comes a decade after the Carver Park project, supported by an $18 million federal housing grant in 2003, ran out of steam.
That project produced the Villas at Carver Park, a 64-unit senior living development, and The Landings at Carver Park, a 56-unit affordable rental community, in 2009. But the third phase of that project, 84 homes to be occupied by owners, never came to fruition. The recession and a soil contamination issue derailed the home-ownership phase.
"We're basically saying as the CRA, we will come in and absorb the cost and take the initiative to stick with the site plan for the 42 units within our boundary," said Thomas Chatmon, executive director of the Orlando Downtown Development Board and the Community Redevelopment Agency. "We will take on the cost of design and construction, marketing and selling."
The original home-ownership phase called for 84 owner-occupied units. But only half those units sit within the Downtown CRA district. (A model home was built in 2009 and still stands, so the redevelopment agency will technically be building 41.)
The deal will involve negotiations with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which provided the original "HOPE VI" grant. That program evolved from HUD's original Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere program, which targeted distressed public housing.
The Carver Park site was previously home to the 1940s-era Carver Court public housing development. That project was razed.
The original HUD grant called for construction of between 13 and 19 homes to be made affordable to families earning at or below 80 percent of the median income. An exact number has not been determined by HUD. According to the memorandum of understanding, the CRA intends to satisfy that obligation.
The rest of the homes would not be required to have income restrictions.
The memorandum states that the CRA will generally use the site plan, elevation drawings and floor plans for single-family homes developed by the housing authority in 2005 and construction drawings for duplexes and townhomes developed in 2008, with any required code modifications.
A site plan calls for six single-family homes along Short Avenue south of Conley Street. East of those homes would be 26 townhomes, and east of those, 10 duplexes.
"We're not looking to come in and radically change what they (the Housing Authority) did," Chatmon said. "They did a good job. There may be tweaks."
OHA had previously completed site preparation, utilities, design work and other infrastructure requirements, including soil remediation. With an estimated construction cost of $210,000 to $230,000 for the single-family homes and just under $200,000 for the other units, the overall cost for the home-ownership phase would come to just under $8 million.
The redevelopment agency has not yet selected a homebuilder. The application process is not yet under way, but Chatmon noted that various homebuyer assistance programs would be in place.
He told GrowthSpotter the CRA would offer a forgivable second mortgage of up to $100,000 to buyers who can qualify for a $125,000 loan and make a $1,000 down payment. That would lower the purchase price of the home without negatively affecting the property value.
The home-ownership phase would complete the Carver Park project. However, the memorandum of understanding notes that land on the west side of Westmoreland Drive, which is not part of the Community Development District, could be developed with the assistance of the City of Orlando.
Chatmon called the Carver Park project a "holistic redevelopment" of the Parramore area. Although there has been a wave of improvements in the neighborhood, the lack of a home-ownership component "wouldn't get us quite there," Chatmon said. "We want to responsibly and holistically redevelop, and home ownership is a vital part of that. We're very proud of it."