News & Information: Orlando REALTOR® magazine - Special Feature

Rendering The Dream Of Homeownership

Friday, March 28, 2014  
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Orlando REALTOR® | March/April 2014

ORRA’s charitable arm,
the Florida Real Estate Foundation,
prepares to make homeownership
a reality for veterans

Six military veterans will soon have their dreams of homeownership fulfilled thanks to the efforts of the Orlando Regional REALTOR® Association’s charitable arm, the Florida Real Estate Foundation.

Florida Real Estate Foundation - learn more and contribute

Behind-the-scenes work has been going on for more than a year, but the Heroes’ Commons at Jefferson Park project was officially launched in February when City of Orlando voted to donate six lots in downtown Orlando. The lots are located in the Parramore area on Benson Avenue, between Polk Street and Jefferson Street, and illustrate the foundation’s commitment to community development.

“The City of Orlando is pleased to support the Florida Real Estate Foundation initiative,” Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer told REALTORS® and members of the press who had gathered at City Hall to witness the official action. “Through the Pathways for Parramore initiative, the City of Orlando has made significant strides in revitalizing the Parramore neighborhood with a focus on providing more opportunities for homeownership in the community. This partnership with the foundation will further support these efforts.”

The Mission

The primary goal of Heroes’ Commons at Jefferson Park is to provide mortgage-free homes to income-qualified veterans from any branch of the United States Armed Forces or income-qualified City of Orlando and Orange County public safety employees.


AIA Orlando
American Legion
Camaraderie Foundation
Central Florida Urban League
City of Orlando
Dr. Phillips Charities
Fair Housing Continuum, Inc.
Greater Orlando Builders Association
Housing and Neighborhood Development Services of Central Florida, Inc.
National Association of REALTORS®
Orlando Regional REALTOR® Association
SunTrust Bank
Wells Fargo

“Through its foundation, ORRA is honored to offer homeownership to those who have served,” says association Chairman Zola Szerencses, RE/MAX 200 Realty. “The servicemen and servicewomen who defend our country and our way of life are also defending the American dream of homeownership, which is, of course, the dream that all REALTORS® want to make come true.”

Housing and Neighborhood Development Services (HANDS) of Central Florida, a frequent partner of the Florida Real Estate Foundation, will handle qualifying potential homeowners and ensuring that they fulfill the project’s homeownership education requirements.

REALTORS® who know of a military veteran or City of Orlando/Orange County public safety employee who may be interested in becoming a Heroes’ Commons at Jefferson Park homeowner should direct the potential homeowner to contact HANDS at 407.447.5686.

The Homes And The Community

The homes of Heroes’ Commons at Jefferson Park will be built in the style and collaborative spirit of the foundation’s Art in Architecture community service program, which to date has constructed 20 affordable and attractive homes in the Orlando area.

In fact, plans for the homes have already been created by architects who are members of project partner AIA Orlando, and members of the Greater Orlando Builders Association will handle the homes’ construction at deeply discounted prices.

The donated lots will be transformed into six single-family homes ranging from 1,200 to 1,400 square feet and $117,000 to $144,000 each. The homes themselves will feature flexible floor plans and changeable elements to ensure ease of use by the disabled.

A “village” that encompasses the homes will include shared garage access, green space, and connectivity to create a commons area. In addition, homeowners will have the opportunity to access supportive social services that ease the transition to civilian life.

Chair - Beverly Evans
Axel Real Estate, Inc.
Vice Chair - Kathleen McIver
RE/MAX Town and Country Realty
Treasurer - Elizabeth Pinkston
Eagle International Realty
Immediate Past Chair - Beverly Pindling
Beverly Pindling Real Estate Services

Lelia Allen
Community-Ideas, LLC
Robert Caldwell
Caldwell Realty Services
Allie Braswell
Braswell Management Group
Steven Merchant
Global Realty International
Tansey Soderstrom
Real Estate Firm of Orlando, Inc.
Zola Szerencses
Keller Williams Heritage Realty
Brian Warner
Florida International Real Estate Broker

Judith Kovisars

Customized services related to mental health, physical health, and education will be available for as long as they are needed.

Funding And Fundraising

The Florida Real Estate Foundation intends to raise enough funds — $1 million — to provide the homes mortgage-free to their new owners (owners will be responsible for taxes, insurance, and maintenance).

To date, the foundation has received approximately $200,000 in contributions and commitments toward the Heroes’ Commons at Jefferson Park project, including:

  • A $5,000 contribution from the Coldwell Bankers Cares Foundation;
  • A $5,000 award from the National Association of REALTORS® Housing Opportunity Grant Program;
  • A $10,000 grant from the Florida REALTORS® Housing Opportunity for All Fund:
  • A $180,000 commitment from the Fair Housing Continuum, Inc., a housing agency dedicated to the elimination of housing discrimination in Florida.

In addition several construction companies are finalizing donations of construction materials, and several ORRA affiliate members are finalizing their donations of in-kind services.

ORRA is providing a $250,000 interim construction line of credit for the project, and its staff members support both the Florida Real Estate Foundation and the Heroes’ Commons at Jefferson Park project.

How You Can Help

Want to get involved in the Florida Real Estate Foundation’s fundraising efforts or be a part of the Heroes’ Commons at Jefferson Park project? Here’s what you can do:

  • Contribute directly or secure donations from other sources;
  • Give presentations about the project to community organizations and potential donors;
  • Volunteer at fundraising events;
  • Serve on a fundraising committee;
  • Provide professional services such as title, appraisal, survey, landscaping, or interior design; or
  • Recommend veterans as potential homeowners.

For more information, contact Frankie Callen Elliott at

The Premier Community Service Program of the Florida Real Estate Foundation

The Heroes’ Commons at Jefferson Park project is an initiative of Art In Architecture, the premier community service program of ORRA’s charitable arm. The Florida Real Estate Foundation produces this highly collaborative effort in order to provide affordable and attractive workforce housing in Central Florida.

Art In Architecture’s new homes are designed by architect members of AIA Orlando, constructed by members of the Greater Orlando Builders Association, and marketed by members ORRA. These services — plus others such as title, closing, landscaping, and interior design — are donated to Art In Architecture for free or at steeply reduced rates to keep the home prices within affordable limits.

New homes built by the Art In Architecture program are designed to be architecturally aesthetic, yet economically viable, alternatives to the standard concrete block “box” home. They are then sold to income-qualified buyers using down-payment assistance programs offered by local governments and the Florida Housing Finance Corporation.

Twenty homes within three communities have been completed since Art In Architecture’s inception in 2003. One of those communities, Winter Park’s Hannibal Square, was the first in Florida to utilize an owner-occupied land trust structure for an affordable-housing project.

ORRA Partners
ORRA would like to thank our Partners for their continuing support.
View the full list of ORRA Partners.