Walt Disney World dedicated nearly 80 acres to a massive affordable housing project near its Orlando park. But Orange County NIMBYs aren’t having it

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Disney is fondly considered nan happiest spot connected earth. But for Orange County residents who unrecorded wrong conscionable miles of Walt Disney World, that affection is souring acknowledgment to an affordable lodging task slated to unfastened wrong nan adjacent mates of years. 

Almost 2 years ago, Walt Disney World announced it was dedicating astir 80 acres of onshore for a caller affordable lodging task successful Orange County, which would see astir 1,400 units of mixed-income housing. At slightest 1,000 of them would beryllium reserved arsenic “affordable” for residents earning 50% to 100% of nan median income, aliases up to astir $70,000. Disney still owns nan land, but is working pinch developer The Michaels Organization to build much lodging for “cost-burdened renters” successful cardinal Florida.  

But immoderate residents are objecting to nan project, concerned it could adhd congestion to nan area and unit connected its nationalist schoolhouse system, according to an Orlando Sentinel report

“They’re trying to battalion an tremendous magnitude of density into what is fundamentally nan size of a Costco parking lot,” Alex Cabrera, who lives little than 2 miles from nan early development, said during a readying and zoning committee gathering past month, according to nan Sentinel. “It’s conscionable measurement excessively much.” 

But connected Tuesday, Orange County commissioners voted to move guardant pinch nan development, and nan scheme will beryllium reviewed by nan Florida Department of Commerce and different authorities agencies.

“We are responding to Orange County leadership’s telephone to bring much affirmative alteration to our organization and person a scheme that will make a meaningful impact,” Tajiana Ancora-Brown, head of outer affairs for Walt Disney World Resort, told Fortune successful a statement. “We are pleased pinch [the] ballot and look guardant to continuing our efforts to bring affordable lodging to Central Florida.”

Just nan latest target of NIMBYs

The U.S. has been successful a housing crunch for a while—and affordability remains a interest arsenic rents enactment high, owe rates enactment elevated, and location prices proceed to rise. That’s why communities for illustration Orange County are successful dire request of affordable lodging units for illustration nan 1 Disney is backing. 

Other groups including hoteliers, Habitat for Humanity, and a schoolhouse teachers national person besides openly supported nan development, planned for a portion of nan region called Horizon West, but for locals, it’s a reliable pill to swallow. These Orange County residents are conscionable nan latest illustration of a activity of NIMBYism—or “not successful my backyard,” an cognition plaguing America that has blocked much lodging improvement successful already established areas. 

“NIMBYism is real, and failing to unafraid buy-in from nan organization adds time, costs and uncertainty,” Tom Barkin, president of nan Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, said successful a November 2023 speech.

While an Orange County commissioner said during nan readying and zoning gathering that her constituents are being wrongly painted arsenic NIMBYs, they still said nan area isn’t fresh to sorb much people.

“We are not successful a position to put much quality beings successful an area that isn’t fresh for them,” District 1 Commissioner Nicole Wilson said during nan meeting, according to WMFE, a section NPR station. “I deliberation we person this cognition that affordable lodging is nan goal. And yes, it should beryllium affordable, but it should besides travel pinch each nan things we request for it to beryllium successful.”

But for illustration galore different NIMBY cases, location are only a fewer large voices speaking for a ample community. Indeed, only astir 30 residents retired of Orange County’s organization of 1.4 million showed up to nan caller readying and zoning committee gathering to aerial their grievances. Organizations including nan Orange County Classroom Teachers Association, Orlando Economic Partnership, and nan West Orange Chamber of Commerce submitted letters of support for nan project. 

“Currently galore of nan businesses we correspond are struggling to enlistee and clasp workers owed to nan constricted proviso of affordable and attainable lodging successful Orange County,” Stephen Lewis, president and CEO of West Orange Chamber of Commerce, wrote successful a support letter. “Ensuring affordable lodging is disposable for West Orange residents is captious to nan occurrence of our region and will thief turn mini businesses and bring long-awaited amenities to nan residents of Horizon West.”

More astir nan project

The groundbreaking for nan affordable lodging task is group for this year, but nan first units wouldn’t beryllium disposable until 2026. While Disney formed members are capable to use to unrecorded astatine nan development, it’s unfastened to immoderate Orange County residents who meet nan income requirements. An Orange County family of 2 making betwixt astir $35,000 to $70,000 would qualify, according to HUD data.

At slightest 1,000 of nan units would beryllium reserved arsenic “affordable” for residents earning 50% to 100% of nan area’s median income.

Courtesy of Disney

Although critics opportunity nan caller improvement would put unit connected surrounding schools, Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) wished that they’ll person capacity by nan clip nan improvement really opens. The lodging improvement is expected to adhd different 206 elementary, 94 middle, and 116 precocious schoolhouse students to nan district, an OCPS accusation serviceman told Fortune. Plus, location are plans to adhd 2 much simple schools that would service that area. And nan developer, The Michaels Organization, has committed to salary millions of dollars successful effect fees to nan region to usage for nationalist infrastructure and services, including roadway updates, schoolhouse capacity, nationalist information needs, and more. 

Disney’s only domiciled successful nan improvement is contributing nan land—and nan institution says it won’t profit from nan development. The Michaels Organization will build, own, and run nan improvement and will privately finance it.

“This inaugural has been successful nan useful for respective years arsenic nan deficiency of affordable lodging is affecting galore group crossed our country, including those who unrecorded and activity successful Central Florida,” according to Walt Disney World. “This task is nan correct opportunity and nan correct clip to return action.

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