Purchasing a home has become increasingly challenging, and expensive around the country. Osceola County is no exception. The COVID-19 pandemic, paired with inflation and a lack of homes on the market, have made it very difficult for families and individuals in Osceola County to purchase their own home.

Osceola County Commissioner Peggy Choudhry hosted a news conference on Monday, emceed by her daughter Athena, that introduced a new initiative managed by the Salvation Army called “A Pathway to Housing” The program is designed to assist people who are “precariously housed” so they can transition to purchase their own home. The commissioner allocated $500,000 towards the program as part of her county betterment funds, bringing the initiative’s funds to $1 Million.

“This is a major step in my commitment to helping residents realize the American Dream of homeownership,” Choudhry said. “We have some amazing partners, and this program is an opportunity to set people on a path that has only gotten more difficult as inflation has raised rents and the market price of houses. I believe that we will see an immediate positive change in the lives of those in this program.”

Since becoming a commissioner in 2016, Commissioner Choudhry has worked hard to combat homelessness, including the advocating of $1 million to the Salvation Army since the 2020 fiscal year as follows: $500,000 for case management toward homeless prevention and self-sufficiency, $300,000
for rental assistance, $105,000 for community assistance through food pantries, $95,000 for multilingual community outreach.

“This is truly a dream come true, because it’s truly thinking outside the box to help the families most in need, and specifically during this housing crisis. It is so important, so for me – this is a dream come to true to help these families,” Osceola County Commissioner Peggy Choudhry for District 1 shared after the announcement.

The “Pathway to Housing” program will focus on people who face potential homelessness or have struggled to purchase a home, and will include case management, financial literacy, acquiring work and life skills in preparation to purchase of a home within a year to 18 months. The program will provide $20,000 for down payments along with $10,000 from the program participant.

“A new class of homelessness is starting to emerge as people are losing their homes because of rising rents, and rising inflation. This is a program that will help them overcome those barriers and get into home ownership,” Salvation Army Captain Ken Chapman said after the announcement.

For families to qualify, their housing expenses must be 30% or more of their income.

“It’ll be families that we think will have success at that 30% level and will be able to do the things that they need to do,” Chapman shared.

Landlords of selected properties will receive a year’s rent up front – with funds set aside for property repairs, if needed. The new program will provide up to 18 months of rental assistance to between 8 to 10 participants in the first year with the potential for 20 to 30 Osceola County families as the program grows. The overarching goal to place families in Osceola County  on a path to homeownership.

Also at Monday’s announcement, which was held at the Salvation Army facility on Union Street in downtown Kissimmee, were Housing 4 All, the La Rosa Foundation/La Rosa Realty, Career Source, Walmart which contributed $50,000 to the effort, Osceola County Sheriff Marcos Lopez, and City of Kissimmee Commissioner Felix Ortiz.