As the Orange County Commission readies itself to approve an expansive 10-year affordable housing plan, Universal Orlando has decided to pull the trigger on a plan of its own — a 23-acre affordable housing development near its Epic Universe theme park set to open in 2023.

According to a report by the Orlando Business Journal, the development will include 1,000 affordable housing units and a three-acre public transit station. Universal Parks and Resorts Chief Administrative Officer John Sprouls told the Journal Universal has yet to determine a construction timeline.

John Sprouls

Furthermore, Sprouls revealed Universal is in the process of creating a plan to release the land for development. Universal will either lease the land for $1 per year to an entity or place a deed restriction on the plot so only affordable housing units can ever be built there, Sprouls said.

Orlando Mayor Jerry Demings said he was pleased with Universal’s commitment to building affordable housing and looked forward to working with the company to create a plan.

“While details are still being worked out, Universal is serving as a prime example of a private entity teaming up with a public entity to address the affordable housing crisis in Orange County,” Demings said during a press conference.

Universal’s announcement coincides with the Orange County Commission’s vote on a 10-year comprehensive housing plan that aims to create and preserve more than 33,000 affordable units by 2030.

According to a report by The National Low Income Commission, Orlando County is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis with only 13 of every 100 units being affordable to the lowest-income households in the area.

“The private market provides too few homes affordable to the lowest-income renters,” the report said. “What extremely low-income renters can afford to pay for rent does not cover the development and operating costs of new housing, and it often is not sufficient to provide an incentive for landlords to maintain older housing.”

To combat the crisis, the Commission plans to reserve 11,000 units for households making between $26,000 and $83,000 with the remaining units going to households making between $83,000 and $97,000. The current median area income for Orlando is $55,089.

Construction costs will be covered by a $160 million local affordable housing fund alongside $69.5 million in contributions from the state and federal government, according to the Journal.

Universal’s commitment to providing affordable housing is part of a larger trend among tech and retail behemoths. This year Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft have collectively pledged more than $4.5 billion toward creating affordable housing units near their headquarters.

“Before the world knew the name Silicon Valley, and long before we carried technology in our pockets, Apple called this region home, and we feel a profound civic responsibility to ensure it remains a vibrant place where people can live, have a family and contribute to the community,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said of his and other company’s commitments.

“Affordable housing means stability and dignity, opportunity and pride. When these things fall out of reach for too many, we know the course we are on is unsustainable, and Apple is committed to being part of the solution.”

Email Marian McPherson

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