Central Florida Housing Report Pinpoints Issues & Opportunities

Central Florida housing today faces challenges that include average housing costs in excess of 30 percent of income for close to 1 out of every 3 households in Orange, Seminole, and Osceola counties. This classifies more than 230,000 gainfully employed residents as ‘cost-burdened.’

Central Florida housing conditions have prompted Orange, Seminole, and Osceola counties along with the City of Orlando to partner to explore ways to better serve the housing needs of the region. As described in the resulting Regional Affordable Housing Initiative report, the issues that affect housing in the region are the result not of want, but of the area’s economic success.

Spearheaded by Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and drafted jointly by the partnering local governments, the report incorporates contributions from the University of Florida’s Shimberg Center for Housing Studies, the Central Florida Foundation, the Apartment Association of Greater Orlando, and GAI’s Community Solutions Group.

“The report shows a steady influx of new workers to this growing region,” said Owen Beitsch, PhD, FAICP, CRE, Senior Director with GAI’s Community Solutions Group (CSG). “While demand for housing is surging, supply is not keeping pace, resulting in predictable increases for mortgage payments or rental costs.”


A news report from WFTV in Orlando explores today’s Central Florida housing challenges.

Key takeaways from the Regional Affordable Housing Initiative report include:

  • Housing production in the study region focuses on larger single-family houses—exceeding the requirements of home seekers based on shrinking family size and available financial resources.
  • The focus on producing larger houses yields fewer houses overall. This results in increases of demand versus supply, and rising costs and competition.
  • An average of 22 percent of owner households and 35 percent of renter households in the study region qualified as cost burdened.
  • While the study region remains economically attractive, the region’s largest job categories pay median salaries of $26k to $36.6k—lower than required for earners to afford the area’s median housing costs.
  • As residents seek more affordable housing, savings are often offset by increased transportation costs as workers move further away from their places of employment.

GAI’s CSG served largely as staff and policy advisors to the report committee made up of the partnering county and city jurisdictions. The CSG had significant input into the content of the report—compiling and refining research, ideas, and insights from a range of professionals to create a unified document that communicated a major housing issue to both public- and private-sector audiences.

“The challenge for affordable Central Florida housing is real, and it consists of many,
many moving parts.”

Building a Clear Narrative, Laying a Path Toward Improvement

“We’re the partnership’s storytellers,” said Beitsch, who draws upon a background as former Orlando Housing Authority commissioner and chair of the Orlando Neighborhood Improvement Commission. “We worked together with the partnership to assemble a vast array of information into a cohesive report that highlights national and regional housing trends, describes how these findings interrelate, and shows how all the facets form the larger picture of housing issues in the region.” And beyond defining Central Florida housing challenges, the report offers a path toward solutions.

“Our experience in Florida community and urban development projects including OBT Next, the City of Ocoee, and others helped us define next steps for improvement,” said Claudia Ray, Urban Designer with GAI’s CSG. “We helped the working group create a framework that classified and prioritized tools and resources that can help move the communities toward mitigating the current housing issues and preventing their reoccurrence.” The framework identifies regulatory tools, funding sources, partnership opportunities and additional resources.

A color-coded pyramid graphic conceived by the team represents how the tools and resources support one another—from basic tools at the pyramid’s base, to progressive tools at the pyramid’s center, to transformational tools at the pyramid’s peak. The transformational tools atop the pyramid are seen as those that will truly ‘move the needle’ toward long-term relief of current Central Florida housing challenges.

“Defining tools and resources and laying out achievable and effective next steps required reaching beyond the jurisdictional members to include input from the building and development industry, large area employers, and non-profits,” said Ray.

Real Information for Meeting a Real Challenge

“We helped the local government partners raise awareness and promote understanding while presenting the problem of affordable housing in the region within a very objective set of findings and issues,” said Beitsch. “The challenge for affordable Central Florida housing is real, and it consists of many, many moving parts. It’s often perceived to be a problem primarily affecting people in need—but the findings show that it’s a problem affecting the region’s entire population and overall economy. By reflecting a wide range of contributors, the Regional Affordable Housing Initiative hopes to establish an environment of sustained success and attainable housing for the region’s current and future population.”

Contact Senior Director Owen Beitsch, PhD, FAICP, CRE, 321.319.3131, for more information about Central Florida housing issues and GAI Community Solutions Group’s urban planning, economics, and strategy services.

Owen BeitschOwen Beitsch, PhD, FAICP, CRE has been active in the management and execution of complex studies for public and private clients for many years. His particular interest in special issues confronting urban areas is demonstrated in both his civic and business activities. A member of The Counselors of Real Estate and a Fellow in the American Institute of Certified Planners, Owen concluded several years of service as a member of the Orlando Housing Board of Commissioners. Owen is a faculty member in the urban and regional planning program at the University of Central Florida.


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