SunRail train service came to Osceola County about two years ago. Through a recent $8.8 million land deal adjacent to the Poinciana SunRail station, county officials made a commitment to leveraging it for employment and affordable housing opportunities.

The 82 acre land purchase is earmarked for affordable workforce housing that, the county plans and hopes, will become a mixed-used “transit-oriented development” hub.

The county purchased the land, for $8.9 million from a prior owner who had planned a single-family housing development — not considered ideal for placement right along a mass transit corridor. County Commission Chairman Viviana Janer called it more of an investment than a real estate transaction.

This acquisition will address one of our top community needs – making sure that our hard-working residents have a safe place they can call home.

Affordable housing is a basic need for our community and the County has been creative in trying to find solutions – including setting aside $1 million a year to help developers move projects forward, and forming a public-private partnership that successfully created 100 units (the Cameron Preserve project on the Yates property near Shingle Creek) to transition the homeless out of hotels.

Viviana Janer

Chairperson, Osceola County

The next steps for the land will be creating a master plan and proper developers for it. To get the desired density, Commissioners have already changed the  zoning designation to require a minimum of 18 units per acre. Officials say the county may sell a portion of what’s been set aside for the mixed-use development portion to recoup some of the original purchase price.

The need for affordable housing opportunities, rather than rentals and weekly or monthly hotel stays, is critical in Osceola County for those earning $35,000 per year or less, and can be addressed for the smaller units planned for this land — diversifying available housing stock by encouraging developers to build smaller units and rental units in newly-allowed higher-density developments. Certain ones qualify that the county no longer charges impact fees to build.

A United Way report commissioned last year showed  that 46 percent of Central Florida residents, and 57 percent of Osceola County families (more than 55,000 households), earned less than the basic cost of living.