By Jeffrey M. Fagan
Orlando REALTOR® magazine, Fall 2019
Throughout this past year as ORRA’s president, I’ve consistently made addressing Orlando’s affordable housing crisis a priority. Actions that I’ve taken on this issue include:
What I’ve realized from all this activity is that affordable housing is an incredibly complex social and economic issue. It’s very different from (and yet related to) the homebuyer affordability statistic that ORRA calculates for its monthly residential housing re-sale market report. I've also learned that people have a lot of objections to affordable housing, even if in their hearts they support the notion that everyone deserves a place to live.
I have encountered vehement opposition to affordable housing both in concept and directly aimed at specific initiatives. Many of these objections come from individuals within the general population who believe housing is solely a personal responsibility and/or affordable housing initiatives will devalue local home prices. Other objections come from REALTORS® who question whether ORRA’s involvement in affordable housing is appropriate given that the line from affordable housing to homeownership is curvy and dotted; or who believe ORRA’s role is to ensure rising home values for existing homeowners rather than to support structural, spatial, system, and policy initiatives that translate into opportunities for housing for all.
I wish that I had the space to respond to all objections and to explain exactly what affordable housing is; why affordable housing is a shared public concern; how providing homes for residents at all levels of the income spectrum is deeply connected to our personal and community prosperity; and what needs to be done to fix Orlando’s housing problem. I don’t. But what I can tell you is that Orlando’s employment base is full of service workers and others who struggle to find and pay for housing that does not eat up a disproportionate percentage of their income. Orlando’s daily influx of new residents increases housing demand and prices.
Affordable housing is a problem for ALL of us. We all lose if we do not act to manage Orlando’s growth in a way that considers its impact on low- and moderate-income families. We all lose when our educators, childcare workers, and first responders are forced to live so far away from their workplace that it compromises their ability to deliver on the job for which they have been hired. We all lose when companies considering a relocation to Orlando reject our City Beautiful because their workers cannot afford housing.
Affordable housing is currently receiving a lot of attention. Building a wide base of public support is vital to sustaining housing’s presence on the local, state, and national policy agenda, and building public (and REALTOR®) support for addressing housing challenges is critical. Due to the graciousness and foresight of our incoming president, Reese Stewart, I am grateful for the opportunity to continue to carry the affordable housing torch on ORRA’s behalf into 2020. As a REALTOR®, you are in the position to connect others to this shared public concern. Practiced well, our industry can change lives for the better. I hope you will join me in advocating for affordable housing
Thank you for allowing me the honor of serving as your president.
ORRA President Jeffrey M. Fagan, Watson Realty Corp, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.