Pro Bono News
'Micro' Houses May Help Ease Orange County's Big Housing Crisis (FL)
Thursday, November 14, 2019
- Orlando Sentinel
'Micro' Houses May Help Ease Orange County's Big Housing Crisis
"Affordable housing advocates hope a small pilot project will help solve one of Orange County’s bigger problems.
Pathlight HOME, a nonprofit that has helped hundreds of homeless people find permanent housing in renovated Orlando hotels, wants to build nine “micro” homes for low-income families.
When completed, the small cluster of homes west of Lake Holden would be from 600 to 1,200 square feet each and inhabited by working-poor families struggling to pay rent.
“It’s where our most need is right now,” said Helaine Blum, president of Pathlight, a nonprofit that turned a Ramada Inn on West Colonial Drive into housing for homeless people 20 years ago.
If the micro-house development proves successful as an affordable housing option, Pathlight might try it again — but on a larger scale, Blum said.
Orange County defines affordable housing units as those that serve households with incomes from $26,000 to $83,000.
County officials hope the project will become a promising blueprint for churches and other nonprofits eager to create affordable housing options on land they own.
“It has the potential to add a needed, new housing type in our community,” said Janna Souvorova, chief planner in Orange County’s Housing and Community Development Division.
Micro-homes are self-contained living spaces with sleeping and sitting areas, a kitchen and a bathroom.
They are smaller than the average new home but bigger than “tiny homes,” the minimalist dwellings featured on the HGTV series “Tiny House, Big Living.”
Tiny homes are typically 500 square feet or smaller, a size prohibited by Orange County code for a permanent dwelling structure.
According to the Census Bureau, the median size of a new single-family home in 2018 in the U.S. was 2,386 square feet, about three times the size of a micro home.
The median price was $326,400.
Micro houses are similar in concept to accessory dwelling units, garage apartments and granny flats, all considered necessary housing options in Orange County.
Souvorova said Pathlight’s micro project leans on strategies that have been discussed by Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings’ Housing for All Task Force.
The 38-member task force, formed by the mayor in his first 100 days in office, hopes to lift Orlando from last place among U.S. cities for affordable housing, a rank assigned the City Beautiful by the National Low Income Housing Coalition. In Orange County, about 31% of the 320,000 households are considered cost-burdened, meaning they spend at least a third of their income on rent.
The task force is set to release its final report Friday.
Housing experts estimate Orange County will need to add 30,000 living spaces over the next 10 years to keep up with its expanding population..."