The Osceola Council on Aging broke ground on its Buen Vecino Affordable Housing Project in Buena Ventura Lakes on Tuesday thanks to grants from HUD, Osceola County, and the City of Kissimmee. When finished, the Buen Vecino Apartments will be 60 one story, one-bedroom apartments for Osceola County seniors 62 years of age or older who receive housing, food, and services from the Council On Aging.

“The Lord says, blessings come to those who wait, and we have waited 15 years for this to be built. It has been the blood, sweat, and tears of Beverly Hougland and I, and I cannot express to you how excited we are to do this groundbreaking with you today. We are just over the moon that we are able to do this,” Osceola Council On Aging CEO Wendy Ford shared at the opening of the Buen Vecino groundbreaking.

The Buen Vecino affordable housing project will be developed on six acres and will include a community area/club house that will host congregate meals and activities for the seniors. Rent will HUD subsidized and tenants will pay 30% of their income toward rent. The Osceola Council on Aging received a$5.69 million  HUD grant, a $5.2 million grant from Osceola County, and $500,000 from the City of Kissimmee. An additional $5.7 million will be invested into the project. The Osceola Council on Aging is the sponsor and landowner of Buen Vecino.

“It has been a long time coming. The council works hard to improve and increase rental units for our seniors, and it’s becoming such a great demand, and Buen Vecino apartments will be a great addition to their admission,” former Osceola County Sheriff Bob Hansell shared at the opening of the groundbreaking ceremony. “This is a great moment for the council!”

“As we all know, affordable housing is much needed here in Kissimmee, and like any other cities around the country we need more homes, just like this. I am thrilled to witness The Osceola Council on Aging, Osceola County, and the City of Kissimmee being part of the solution to increase affordable housing in Central Florida,” said Jose Alvarez, HUD Southeast Regional Administrator. “Housing supply is a solvable issue and the best thing we can do to ease the cost burden is to boost the supply of quality housing, including building more new homes and preserving existing federally supported and market-rate affordable housing.”

“We are excited to break ground on this project, so we can begin meeting the needs of our senior population in the BVL community,” said Wendy Ford, CEO of the OCOA. “We are beyond blessed to be the only organization in the State of Florida to receive this grant for our affordable housing project due to the need for housing in our community,”. “We are committed to our senior population, especially when it comes to providing affordable housing in Osceola County.”

“The Osceola County Board of County Commissioners is committed to increasing the supply of affordable housing for our residents, especially our seniors who struggle financially on a fixed income, said Viviana Janer, Chairwoman of the Osceola County Board of Commissioners. “The partnership with Osceola Council on Aging will include added benefits for the residents of this much needed affordable housing project.”

“We see when non-profits, HUD, and local governments come together, miracles can happen, especially for our seniors. Houses that went for $100,000 and $125,000 just over 10 years ago are now going for $300,000 or $350,000, and it’s a beautiful neighborhood, so I get why people want to live here, but we know, especially for our seniors, communities like this are becoming more and more out of reach, so while here today we’ll be able to help 60 families and seniors who don’t have a place to live. There is more work to be done, and let’s all be Buen Vecinos, U.S. Congressman Darren Soto said during the groundbreaking.

Construction will begin and the application process for rentals begins toward the end of 2023 for the apartments.