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To fix homelessness, advocates say Orange County needs to overhaul time consuming building process

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Central Florida’s homeless advocates say it’s time to get serious about addressing a regional housing shortage.

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After a fire displaced 237 men living at the Coalition for the Homeless men’s shelter, community leaders came together to avoid a potential nightmare situation.

Multiple community organizations stepped up, so those displaced wouldn’t end up on the streets, but advocates said the immediate crisis posed by the fire shed light on the existing shortage of shelter beds and the need for long-term solutions.

One week later, some say it’s time for local governments to refocus on addressing housing needs.

Since at least 2022, local leaders have been analyzing and working to address the shortage of affordable housing.

In August of that year, Orange County Commissioners listened as staff presented the results of an analysis which found it was taking too long to go from planning to constructing homes.

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Data showed it was taking nearly three years to get a multi-family home from the planning to the construction phase.

At the time, commissioners and the mayor said it was time to change public policy to increase the production of housing.

But two years later, no policy changes have been approved.

Fred Clayton works with the area’s homeless as the CEO of the Orlando Rescue Mission. Clayton is concerned local governments don’t feel an urgency when it comes to addressing current housing needs.

“I would urge everybody to tell their governmental representatives that the city and the county need to make it easier, less expensive and quicker for developers to build apartments,” said Clayton.

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The CEO believes the current crisis is in part driven by the laws of supply and demand. He said the solution is providing adequate services while building more homes.

“It’s not just affordable housing, it is the government’s removing restrictions on private developers who want to build apartment complexes of all price ranges,” Clayton said, “The more you build homes of a middle-class price range, that eases the pressure on the lower range, And we need that as well.”

According to an Orange County spokesperson, “The county constantly explores ways to improve the process to serve our customers best.”

In a statement, a spokesperson said a nine-person Project Assistance Team was created in the summer of 2023 to streamline the approval process.

That team works with developers from concept to completion to identify challenges and find solutions.

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Additionally, the county said they are actively working to fill vacancies across its Development Services Division.

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