Weighing in on Central Florida Housing Woes

A recent WESH Orlando television news report exploring the challenges faced by Central Florida home seekers featured input from GAI Sr. Director Owen Beitsch, PhD, FAICP, CRE.

Reports and TV Segment Explore Central Florida Housing Issues

WESHWESH’s Project Community segment that aired April 10 homed in on findings of a national report titled The Gap: A Shortage of Affordable Homes, 2019, which ranked Central Florida the most challenged region in the U.S. for affordable housing. Beitsch appeared in the segment offering his professional perspective on the root causes of the difficult conditions facing the area’s low-income home seekers.

GAP Report 2019The findings of the Gap report echoed themes and conditions detailed in last year’s Regional Affordable Housing Initiative, a study sponsored by a local government partnership comprising Orange, Seminole, and Osceola counties and the City of Orlando. The research and analysis explored Central Florida’s housing challenges and featured contributions from Beitsch, other members of GAI’s Community Solutions Group (CSG), and other community-interest groups.

Low Inventory and Low Incomes Face High Competition and High Prices

Currently, low-income renters in the area are facing an extreme shortage of housing options, with the Gap report showing only 13 affordable and available rental homes or apartments for every 100 low-income households. At the root of the problem, according to Beitsch, is the lingering effects of the burst of the housing bubble in 2008 and the subsequent recession.

“Central Florida was relatively unaffected by economic downturns occurring in the U.S. in 1990-91 and 2001, and the area was booming in terms of construction and development,” said Beitsch. “More and more low- and middle-income workers—including, ironically, many in the construction trades—came to the area for employment opportunities coupled with the area’s historic affordability.”  The 2008 bust and the following recession quickly put an end to the area’s sustained growth. Suddenly people who were once home owners or potential home owners were becoming renters.

“The rental market became flooded—inventory was insufficient, and prices predictably began to rise,” said Beitsch. “Low-income people were now caught competing with higher-wage earners for similar housing.” Indeed, as home production has stagnated in the wake of the Great Recession, many people who earn a relatively healthy wage are being priced out of the Central Florida housing market as well—as a result, they are remaining in the rental market longer, keeping available rental inventory low and prices high.

Identifying Contributing Factors, Seeking Solutions

Beitsch, an active instructor and research associate at University of Central Florida, member of the Counselors of Real Estate, and American Institute of Certified Planners fellow, contributes decades of real estate development economic advisory experience to the GAI CSG’s master planning work.

Beitsch sums up the factors combining to keep conditions difficult for Central Florida’s low-income home seekers: “More people, less income, an extraordinary emphasis on rents, and—due to post-recession conditions—a limited construction labor force to build new apartments. And those apartments that are being built are predominantly for the high-priced market,” he said.

Beitsch suggests forward-looking actions that could work together to address Central Florida housing challenges long term: “I believe that a combination of steps like facilitating the development of new affordable housing through regulatory review and modification, encouraging diversity in new housing to include a range of income levels, and working to preserve and rehabilitate existing affordable housing stock could go a long way toward mitigating immediate challenges and seeding ongoing future improvement in the Central Florida housing picture.”

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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