By Pete Barr Jr.
Last month, I was proud to be among nearly two dozen Habitat for Humanity Greater Orlando & Osceola County Board members and staff who boarded a bus bound for Florida’s capital.
We traveled halfway across the state to speak face-to-face with legislators about how our community can work together to Face the Housing Crisis™.
We met with eight of our state legislators to ask them to support to help create a brand-new Housing Readiness Center. This facility would play a pivotal role in offering resources, staff and educational programs dedicated to enhancing residents’ financial literacy and preparedness for homeownership. If approved, the Center would be a comprehensive hub catering to the needs of both renters and homeowners.
And there are a lot of Central Floridians who need this kind of support. In our community, homeownership is increasingly unattainable for many families. The median price for an entry-level house has more than doubled from $140,000 in 2012 to $336,000 in the last quarter of 2023, according to American Enterprise Institute. Affordable rental options are also scarce, with the fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment being $1,616, according to the National Low-Income Housing Corporation.
Access to safe, affordable housing is fundamental to fostering positive environments for education, health, wellness, safety and overall prosperity for everyone in our community.
We began this dedicated work six months ago, when we introduced the Face the Housing Crisis™ initiative, which showcases real professionals in our community who are impacted by the affordable housing crisis, including teachers, nurses and firefighters.
Through the Cornerstone Housing™ Framework, our roadmap for transformative change, we are working together with community stakeholders to improve Central Florida for all. This action plan demonstrates that the housing crisis is a “wicked problem”—complicated with no single root cause. To face this issue, our region needs to redefine collaboration, build common understanding and establish shared goals.
In Tallahassee, we amplified our efforts by speaking directly to our Central Florida legislators and asking for their support. I witnessed our Legislature in action, and how much effort it takes to get the attention of our leaders as they all have other meaningful priorities.
When we walked into offices as a group of 22 professionals, we showed our dedication and commitment to Central Florida’s housing crisis. We didn’t schedule a Zoom call to or pick up the phone. We made it a priority to pause our everyday lives to ensure our state leaders could engage with us in thoughtful, face-to-face conversations about our concerns and forge a path to solutions.
I’m proud to say that our Board of Directors has committed to make this an annual visit. Though we are early in our journey, we have exciting plans to continue to Face The Housing Crisis™.
As a community, we face the choice to sit on our hands or to put them to work collectively. I invite you to raise your hand and pioneer the change needed at FaceTheHousingCrisis.org.
Pete Barr Jr. is the chair of the Board of Directors of Habitat for Humanity Greater Orlando and Osceola County.