Sherrill Hampton, director of housing and community development for Orange County, is hopeful that once residents see the county is sincere in its efforts to lend aid, they will be more willing to cooperate.
The county is currently working with the three remaining families to find homes before the end of March. County officials met with the residents to discuss their needs and inspected the residents’ housing units but found they were not structurally sound enough to be moved.
Staff has been able to locate an open spot at a local mobile home park for one of the Homestead families, but is continuing to search for more.
The Orange County Board of Commissioners held a meeting Tuesday where they resolved to partner with EmPOWERment Inc., a local non-profit dedicated to helping low-wealth communities find and maintain affordable housing. They also approved $280,600 to provide housing for Homestead residents.
“We want to enter into a contract with EmPOWERment to provide relocation coordination services,” Hampton said. “They have the experience, they are presently handling property management, and community and resident organizing is a niche activity, so we are comfortable and feel that EmPOWERment has the capacity to do this and help us move very quickly between now and March 31.”
EmPOWERment will build the families homes, which could vary from mobile, modular or even tiny houses. EmPOWERment will also rent land for the houses to be built on in order to provide residents with continued case management. Their end goal is to help families eventually own their homes and build assets.
“There are types of communities that are faced with these walls and these barriers that sometimes seem insurmountable, and they don’t know what to do,” Delores Bailey, executive director of EmPOWERment said. “But working with the solutions Mrs. Hampton has come up with, I believe they are good solutions, they are positive and they will help the families in crisis.”
EmPOWERment has also been working on the Lakeview case. While Lakeview residents have longer to relocate, there are 33 mobile homes and two duplexes on the property. There is a scarcity of lot spaces in Orange County, and there are already not enough available to accommodate the handful of families from Homestead.
BOCC proposed a last resort option to build a mobile home community on a segment of land in Millhouse Road Park. Staff is currently conducting an appraisal the site to see if it is viable for construction.
Joshua Kirschner presently resides on the Millhouse property and his family has lived there since 1971. Kirschner attended Tuesday’s board meeting to voice his concerns.
“I do have an issue with the discussion of the Millhouse site as a mobile home park, and changing the zoning there to put in high-density housing,” Kirschner said. “You’re kind of changing the game as you go along to put high density in one little section of it, but still use it as a park in another way, and I think that’s disingenuous and not the intent of why that property was built in the beginning.”
The mobile home park would use eight to 10 acres of land to create 34 units. The density wouldn’t be much different from a small, single-family neighborhood according to Craig Benedict, the Orange County director of planning and inspections.
“This county and this staff will never put anything that I wouldn’t want to live in, that I wouldn’t want my mother to live in and that I wouldn’t want to live beside,” Hampton said. “What I’m envisioning with our commissioners is a beautiful community full of many housing types. It’s about these people’s choice, it’s about creating assets and wealth, but it’s also about preserving neighborhoods.”