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Theme parks planning affordable housing in Orlando area

The lack of affordable housing has been a concern for years, given the traditional lower wages associated with tourism and ever-increasing population numbers.
A statue of Walt Disney with Mickey Mouse outside the entrance to Cinderella's Castle at Disney World in Orlando. Two Florida theme parks have announced plans to build affordable housing in the Orlando area, where it has become increasingly difficult for lower-wage workers to find places to live.
A statue of Walt Disney with Mickey Mouse outside the entrance to Cinderella's Castle at Disney World in Orlando. Two Florida theme parks have announced plans to build affordable housing in the Orlando area, where it has become increasingly difficult for lower-wage workers to find places to live. [ LIBO TANG | Dreamstime ]
Published Apr. 7|Updated Apr. 7

ORLANDO — Two Florida theme parks have announced plans to build affordable housing in the Orlando area, where it has become increasingly difficult for lower-wage workers to find places to live.

Walt Disney World, the area’s largest employer, said Wednesday that 80 acres has been earmarked for a development of about 1,300 units near its theme parks in Lake Buena Vista. The units will be available to qualified applicants who are employees or members of the public.

Last month, Universal Parks & Resorts announced plans to build a 1,000-unit mixed-income community that offers tuition-free preschool and medical care on site.

Orange County, home to Disney, Universal, SeaWorld and scores of hotels and resorts, attracts millions of tourists each year.

The lack of affordable housing has been a concern for years, given the traditional lower wages associated with tourism and ever-increasing population numbers.

Last week, the Orange County Commission agreed to hire a consultant to study whether to consider a rent control ordinance.

In a news release Wednesday, Disney said the development, which is still in the planning stages, would offer a variety of home choices that are “affordable and attainable.”

Universal’s development, Catchlight Crossings, is a little further along, with plans submitted to the Orange County Planning and Development Department.

“Our vision has been to bring an innovative, new approach to solving our community’s affordable housing crisis,” John Sprouls, Universal’s executive vice president and chief administrative officer, said in a statement. “This is about creating a community that will put residents first — a place that inspires them and that they will be proud to call home.”

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings applauded the efforts.

“We look forward to working with other businesses to do the same as we endeavor to close the gap between the housing crisis and the lack of affordable housing to having an abundance of workforce housing in this community,” Demings said in recorded remarks.

He said the county hopes to see more “workforce housing closer to where people work.”

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