Osceola Council on Aging Receives Grant for Affordable Housing

osceola council on aging and board of commissioners

The Osceola Council on Aging, Inc.

Founded in 1971, the Osceola Council on Aging, Inc. is one of the largest social services organizations in Osceola County. Its mission is to offer services and programs to enable “independence and self-sufficiency for seniors, disabled adults, the disadvantaged and families in poverty.”

Last year the OCOA served over 207,000 Osceola County residents. And now, thanks to HUD, the organization continues to fulfill its mission by providing more low-income housing for seniors.

Affordable Housing Grant

The OCOA is the recent recipient of a $5.69 million grant from HUD for affordable housing. It is the only organization in Florida to receive the grant out of 32 nominees nationally. Wendy Ford, CEO of the OCOA says the grant is a long-time coming.

“Right now, we have five different apartment complexes that serve in this capacity. So for us, it’s just an expansion of what we do. It’s so needed because our waitlists are like five years long on all our properties,” Ford says.

Moreover, Osceola County ($3.8 million) and the City of Kissimmee ($500,000) will invest an additional $4.3 million into the project. Since 2016, Commissioner Viviana Janer, Osceola County Board of Commissioners says the board is laser focused on providing affordable housing. But this project is extra special.

“This project is near and dear to my heart because it is near and dear to one of my special interests which is our seniors,” Janer says. “They’re part of our most vulnerable community. They have worked their whole lives. They’ve paid their dues, and a lot of them are now on these fixed incomes and it’s very difficult for them to keep up with this inflation and high rents.”

Buen Vecino

Buen Vecino apartments in osceola county

The funds will help build a new affordable housing project Buen Vecino, meaning good neighbor.

Buen Vecino is a one story, 60 one-bedroom apartment development in Buena Ventura Lakes (BVL). In partnership with the OCOA, Buen Vecino will house low-income seniors, (making $29,000 or less annually), 62 years of age or older.

The development spreads across six acres. Seniors can access a computer lab, exercise room and community club house that hosts congregate meals and activities. Rent is also HUD subsidized and tenants will only pay 30% of their income toward rent.

“That’s tremendous because even with rising cost of operations, HUD subsidizes the rest of the rent so you’re never short on that end and the tenant doesn’t suffer, so it’s a wonderful thing,” says Ford.

Ford and Janer both agree that Buen Vecino is not possible without partnership. “It takes many partners to sustain our community and the OCOA could not be as effective as we are in this community without the help of the city and the county,” Ford says.

Groundbreaking and construction for Buen Vecino will begin in the first quarter of 2023. The application process for rentals begins in December 2023. For more information visit: https://osceolagenerations.org/

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Written by Alexis George

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