Orange County invests in affordable housing project

By Julie Gargotta , Reporter
Last Updated: Thursday, May 18, 2017, 5:47 PM EDT

It’s a new space for low income neighbors in Orange County, some of whom have been chronically homeless or in transition.

“If you hear of an affordable housing project going to an area near you, this is what we’re talking about," said Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs.

  • Orange County partially funded new apartments off Goldenrod Road
  • The goal is to provide affordable housing, address housing shortage
  • Some families in the complex will pay reduced rent of up to $500/month

The $13.5 million Goldenrod Pointe Apartments, off Goldenrod Road in Orlando, was partially funded by Orange County. It invested $2 million into the project, $1 million of which comes from the State Housing Initiatives Program.

“I love the community here, it’s very calm. Everything is perfect here," said Andrew Velardo. "I love the people here.”

The 17-year-old moved with his brother, sister and mother from Hialeah to a place he said is much safer than his former neighborhood. It's also upgraded: Inside the communal space, a business center and gym; Solar panels cover the rooftops and a water fountain splashes in the center of the green courtyard.

Each of the 70 apartments -- 20 percent of which are reserved for lower-income families -- is modern, with high-end finishes, like granite counter tops.

Inside the new Goldenrod Pointe Apartments in Orlando, which were partially funded by Orange County. (Julie Gargotta, staff)

Leaders hope the apartments will give some families a helping hand into places they can afford, addressing a huge shortage in the market and focusing on the transition into stable housing.

“We want to reduce the stigma. We want people in our community to accept these families, give them the second chance," said Jacobs.

It’s something that Velardo knows not everyone gets. Many are on long waiting lists for housing and struggle, despite being fully employed.

“Like my aunt, she’s trying to find a better place, but she’s in Hialeah. It’s a four-hour drive," he said. “We started searching, it took us awhile. But now, we’re here.”

Some families in the complex will pay a greatly reduced rate for rent, up to $500 per month. Renters will then work with case managers and social services — to eventually move into market-rate apartments.

After financial difficulties, Velardo hopes this opportunity will allow his family to start fresh.

"I feel blessed, to be honest," he said. "Blessed.”

The first of three workshops at the Orange County Board of Commissioners Chambers will be held Friday at 9 a.m. Officials will be working to determine the best spots for affordable housing.