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Local officials offer solutions for gentrification, affordable housing

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This is the first installment of an ongoing housing series exploring housing-related issues and solutions in Greater Oviedo and Winter Springs.

About this series: OCN spends a lot of time listening to its readers and you’ve told us that housing is an important issue to you. OCN has spent months talking with residents, its Community Advisory Board and local leaders to create this series of articles. Some articles will focus on specific areas within Greater Oviedo and Winter Springs while others will involve the entire coverage area. 

During OCN’s initial audience listening sessions in 2021, Oviedo High School Principal Trent Daniel told OCN that housing is a big challenge for local teachers. 

“I think the biggest issue in the community is that we have no affordable housing anymore,” Daniel had said. “Any teacher who is hired now cannot afford to live in Oviedo and not even in the apartments. They’re unaffordable for them on the salary they make. Funny enough, I know that personally because my daughter is a teacher and she cannot afford to live anywhere in Seminole County.”

In April, reader Katrina Scales told us: “I would also like to see more townhomes or condos for under $325k. Right now, there are very few buying options under that price, aside from manufactured homes in 55+ neighborhoods. Building upward and utilizing unused space could satisfy both of these dreams.”

As we roll out this series, we invite you to engage with us by sending us your questions, input and experiences with local housing. Click here to take a brief survey.


Growth and expansion are natural signs of a healthy city. But it does not always benefit everyone, and sometimes leaves those most in need searching for answers.

With 38 development projects currently in review, approved, in construction or recently completed in Oviedo – at least 10 of which are specifically zoned as residential – residents see work being done throughout the city. What oftentimes cannot be seen so directly, however, are the effects it has on the surrounding communities and residents.

As investment groups and developers continue buying land and properties across the city, state and country, rising rental prices and interest rates have forced longtime residents to make difficult decisions.

Gentrification is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a process in which a poor area (as of a city) experiences an influx of middle-class or wealthy people who renovate and rebuild homes and businesses and which often results in an increase in property values and the displacement of earlier, usually poorer residents.” And it is occurring in Oviedo, amid the bulldozers, cranes and excitement of new possibilities.

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“Our historical areas are very concerned about gentrification,” Councilmember Natalie Teuchert said. “I think the missing link in most peoples’ brains is if they own their house, don’t sell it and it’s not going to be gentrified. [But] a lot of people don’t own their houses.”

The median rental price in Oviedo is $2,375 per month, $180 more than the national average, according to Zillow, and more than $600 higher than the median gross rent between 2017 and 2021, according to the U.S. Census. The percentage of homeownership decreased from 83.3% in 2010 to 78.6% in 2021, according to a presentation at the March 27 City Council working session, as the median home value rose from $255,000 in 2015 to $488,000 currently, per data from Zillow.

With luxury apartment complexes and other market-rate – though not always affordable – rentals going up on a regular basis, the landscape of the city is constantly changing. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development deems homes affordable when the “occupant is paying no more than 30 percent of gross income for housing costs, including utilities,” while luxury apartments often include various on-site amenities, leading to higher rent.

“I’ve seen Oviedo change from orange groves and celery fields to a growing metropolitan area,” lifelong resident and Improving Oviedo Neighborhoods (ION) member William Jackson, 65, said. “I think a big part of that was the [University of Central Florida] and [the city’s] proximity to Orlando and the coast. Oviedo is in a very good strategic location for a lot of things and people, and that’s why people like it.”

Due to its many desirable features, the city’s population has rapidly grown, from 33,000 in 2010 to more than 40,000 people currently. State projections put the population at 57,000 by 2045. The increase in people has led to a massive demand for housing, which can be out of reach for many due to the current housing market.

“We are at a crisis point now,” Jackson said. “Are we going to let people who can’t afford to live in a house or an apartment just go homeless? That’s going to be another great economic impact upon society and the community as a whole.

“Just because a person is of a lower economic status does not mean that they are a bad person or they’re not contributing to society,” he said.

As areas gentrify, with upgraded surrounding amenities and new builds, property values rise. This puts homeowners in a complex situation: keep their home to prevent further high-cost rentals from entering the area or sell for, oftentimes, above market value.

“That’s a really tall ask in some of these neighborhoods, where this is the first chance for a generation to have some wealth to work with,” Oviedo Mayor Megan Sladek said. “It’s essentially asking individual people to do something that the wider public ought to probably take on collectively.”

Historically Black neighborhoods like Washington Heights, Johnson Hill and Jackson Heights are seeing the effects of the changes due to longtime renters being forced to move after a home is sold, renovated and rented out for a higher price.

“All of these apartments are going up in a blink of an eye all around, and it’s moving further and further in,” Kathy Hunt, president of Oviedo Citizens in Action, Inc., said. “Then they are buying up the peoples’ property over in [those] area[s] and not building affordable houses. Those people can’t afford to move back in there.”

So what can be done to alleviate homeowners of that difficult decision as the city continues to grow? 

In 2022, City Council approved updates to Oviedo’s 25-year comprehensive plan, which focused the city’s anticipated growth into four areas – historic downtown, Oviedo on the Park, Oviedo Mall and the Mitchell Hammock corridor. The plan laid out the areas that can be developed for high-density and low-density housing.

“The whole point of our comprehensive plan was we have to accommodate the future growth,” Teuchert said. “Where are we going to put it? Let’s try to keep our neighborhoods as they are and not be a tool in speeding up that kind of growth [by developers]. I don’t want to go and up-zone lower-income neighborhoods and cause them to lose their homes.

“Is that happening anyways because companies are coming in and buying single-family houses and renting them out? Yes,” she said. “But it’s not because we’re upzoning them. That’s kind of the push and pull there.”

Rather than dramatically changing existing neighborhoods, Teuchert said redevelopment of vacant buildings in the four areas of focus would be a more desirable option, as it would upgrade those key areas while adding additional housing without affecting existing residents.

“The only way to get rent down is to build more places to live,” Sladek said. “There has to be more supply to get the rent to stop going up as fast.”

Sladek has proposed other alternative housing options, such as micro-apartments and duplexes, though allowing property owners to have multiple roommates or tenants, or add accessory dwelling units (ADUs) to their existing property would be even more ideal for her.

However, the City of Oviedo currently prohibits more than three unrelated people living in single-family zoned homes, she said.

“So if you have an ADU, and you put an entire family in it, you’re in violation of the law,” she said. “We could greatly improve our situation by simply [raising the number to] four. If we [change it to say] no more than four unrelated people can live together, well then you can have 33% more people live in the same house.”

The biggest potential change, though, would be encouraging developers to offer a percentage of units in new developments as affordable housing. To do this, a city can offer incentives to developers, such as allowing a higher density to buildings that offer affordable units, and implementing linkage fees. 

Linkage fees are charged to developers for their impact on communities, and “are used to fund or subsidize the development of affordable housing,” according to Seminole County’s Attainable Housing Strategic Plan.

“If you don’t have a financial ding for not building affordable housing, of course they aren’t going to do it,” Sladek said. “But if you say, ‘Either [add affordable units] or you pay this [fee],’ you make it a break-even thing and pick your poison. Well, am I going to pay X-million dollars in linkage fees or am I going to just bite the bullet – and it may be a little cheaper – and just put the affordable housing in there.”

To implement linkage fees, the City Council would need to take it up during session. Sladek said she has brought it up internally to city management previously, but has been rebuked due to other pressing city needs, despite her insistence that “it could be done in six months,” and “it’s the only legal solution that doesn’t take away property rights or ask anybody to take a dive.

“I’m going to bring it up at the next meeting. It’s the most win-win of all [solutions],” she said. “If we create another barrier to building more [high-priced] apartments, it slows down the gentrification, and when it happens, it also forces inclusion. So there’s no non-win about it.”


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