A look at the current and upcoming projects of the Orlando Regional REALTOR® Foundation as it fosters the REALTOR® commitment to creating community
Since Since 2005, the Orlando Regional REALTOR® Foundation (ORRA’s charitable arm) has worked to address affordable housing issues and to improve the quality of life for all residents of Central Florida. During that time, the foundation has:
Built 24 affordable, attractive homes under the auspices of its award-winning Art In Architecture program;
Provided scholarships for REALTORS® seeking to further their education in international real estate; and
Raised more than $1.5 million (not even including donations of materials or professional services) in support of its mission and initiatives.
Now, as the foundation nears its 15th year of representing the philanthropic bend of Orlando REALTORS®, here’s a roundup of its current efforts and a sneak peek at just a few of the projects that are in the pipeline.
HEROES’ COMMONS AT JEFFERSON PARK
The foundation is finishing up construction on the last homes in its Heroes’ Commons at Jefferson Park initiative, which is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2018. By project’s end, a total of six mortgage-free homes will have been presented to local military veterans (two homes are already occupied by the new homeowners and their families).
“The Orlando Regional REALTOR® Foundation is committed to creating homeownership opportunities for veterans along with the first responders, educators, and others who form the backbone of the Central Florida workforce,” says ORRF Chairman Gallagher McIver, RE/MAX Central Realty. “We can never repay our military men and women for their sacrifice and service, but we hope that the gift of homeownership through the Heroes’ Commons at Jefferson Park initiative can be a small token of our appreciation.”
Heroes’ Commons at Jefferson Park is a small “village” of six single-family homes in the Parramore neighborhood and assumes an important role in the revitalization of downtown Orlando’s historic Parramore neighborhood. The homes are provided to income-qualified military veterans chosen by a selection committee, and they are also offered supportive social services to ease the transition to civilian life.
The project is part of the foundation’s “Art In Architecture” program, which collaborates with local architects, builders, lenders, housing organizations, and municipalities to create affordable housing opportunities. The City of Orlando donated the land, and the foundation has raised more than $900,000 in support of the initiative.
Heroes’ Commons at Jefferson Park has even earned multiple honors along its path to completion, including an Orange County Sustainable Development Award and a Finalist designation in the residential category of the Downtown Orlando Partnership Golden Brick Awards.
A project that is also nearing completion falls under the foundation’s dedication to improving the quality of life for Central Florida’s residents. The small, underserved community of Bithlo in east Orange County now enjoys a combined community center and library courtesy of the foundation and project partners such as the Metro Orlando Builders Association.
To create the community center, the foundation oversaw the repair and retrofit of an existing home – purchased for the project by United Global Outreach – so that it met current building codes and ADA requirements. The home will serve as a safe place for local children to gather after school for homework and educational activities, in addition to housing a library room.
ORRF contributed nearly $8,000 toward the project and took a lead role in organizing the fundraising efforts and securing construction oversight from our MOBA partner. The new community center is just part of the ongoing Transformation Village program, which seeks to address Bithlo’s environmental as well as community concerns.
NONPROFIT HOUSING ROUNDTABLE OF CENTRAL FLORIDA
The foundation is spearheading the discussion of Central Florida’s affordable housing crisis by serving as the administrative entity for the Nonprofit Housing Roundtable of Central Florida.
Bolstered by a $5,000 NAR Housing Opportunity grant, ORRF has revitalized the roundtable and its mission to provide a forum for the exchange of ideas regarding affordable housing. The initiative seeks to bring together the many diverse, yet related, groups and experts who work independently on the issue. The roundtable provides a conduit for raising funds, collecting data, and developing plans and solutions for increasing the supply of affordable and workforce housing.
The roundtable recently completed one of its signature tasks, a series of four focus groups that surveyed affordable housing stakeholders about the challenges and opportunities they face in this arena. Results will be provided to the ORRF Board of Trustees and other interested entities such as governmental agencies for incorporating into their action plans and policy-making recommendations. For example, the foundation may utilize the findings as part of its advocacy efforts to convince local governments to lengthen their affordability designations indefinitely and to persuade local employers to provide housing assistance as part of their suite of employee benefits.
Focus Group Findings
Belief that housing is not a community issue, but rather an individual problem;
Absence of affordable inventory;
Decreasing help from state and federal governments; and
Increasing costs of non-housing expenses.
Pursue regulatory reform for streamlining the permitting process;
Develop incentives for multi-family projects located near transit hubs;
Encourage employers to provide housing assistance as an employee benefit; and
Advocate for lengthening the municipal affordability designation from 30 years to indefinite.
Stay tuned for updates about these three special projects from the Orlando Regional REALTOR® Foundation that are currently in the works:
>An Art In Architecture initiative will develop attractive, affordable new homes on nine parcels of land owned by ORRA, the foundation, and the Orange Blossom Trail Development Board in the Holden Heights area of Orlando. The home plans and site designs are currently in creation mode by the project’s volunteer architects, which includes both new faces and those with prior involvement in Art In Architecture.
>The second is a novel collaboration with the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness that is in the exploratory phase. This intriguing project would involve the foundation working with the commission to establish a centralized system of identifying affordable housing units for those individuals and/or families that are very near homelessness.
>The creation of a scholarship endowment at Seminole State College will honor Art In Architecture Founder Steve Chitwood, who sadly passed away in 2017. The foundation’s goal is to raise $25,000 to $100,000 to assist qualified students as they seek an education in construction and design.