Osceola commissioners budget $1M incentive fund for affordable housing

Because of Osceola County’s lack of affordable housing, Genette Marrero is forced to return to Puerto Rico. (Stephanie Bechara, staff)

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Affordable housing remains a top priority across Central Florida, especially with the influx of Puerto Ricans after Hurricane Maria.

A new incentive program approved in Osceola County could help people find a place to live within their means.

After Hurricane Maria, Genette Marrero came here from Puerto Rico with empty hands.

“I lost everything. (I) lost my bed, lost my furniture, my TV … Absolutely everything,” she said.

During Marrero’s time in Osceola County, she has stayed at a number of hotels and even some time in her sister’s home.

“Everything is thousands of dollars. Prices don’t go down,” she explained.

That’s why Marrero packed up her bags and is going back to the island.

In tears she said, “It pains me that I have to go.”

Due to the lack of affordable housing, Osceola County is budgeting $1 million for an incentive fund. It’s a program in which developers can apply and receive help towards purchasing land and mobility fees.

County Commissioner Cheryl Grieb with the consent of the commission asked the County Manager to bring forward a comprehensive package.

“This is a way again to incentivize anyone who does affordable housing projects to get in touch with the county,” she said. “And say ‘hey how can we be involved with this? How can we get a hold? How do we make an application?’ And hopefully they either have land or aware of some property, especially on the western side … That will be the priority.”

When it comes to housing, these developers have to follow the Housing and Urban Development guidelines, meaning the rentals cannot exceed 30 percent of the family’s income monthly.

While Marrero will miss Florida, for the sake of others she said she hopes “what they say about this program comes true.”

For more information on the affordable housing incentive fund, click here.

Developers interested should call County Human Services at 407-742-1200.

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