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Economic Opportunity surveying Central Florida housing needs

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity has sent out letters to county, city and housing authority officials throughout Central Florida seeking information on affordable housing shortages.

The letter, from DEO Director of Community Development Julie Dennis, is exploring available resources and unmet needs that are being tested as a result of both the damages caused by Hurricane Irma, which struck the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Florida, and then Hurricane Maria, which hit the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, sending tens of thousands of people looking for available housing.

Dennis wrote to city and county mayors and chairs, housing authority directors, and others throughout Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Polk and Seminole counties  announcing the DOE Division of Community Development is analyzing statewide data to determine remaining unmet needs in communities after all other resources have been exhausted. To do so, it is seeking housing information from the local authorities, especially “on any needs for which there are no current resurfaces available.

“The information will be included in an unmet needs assessment required by the federal government to receive additional funding for long-term recovery,” she wrote in letters that went out late last week.

The Central Florida area is being cited for having a particularly critical affordable housing shortage exacerbated by the migration of tens of thousand of people from the islands since the hurricanes wiped out communities and shut off power and water for millions. The Florida Division of Emergency Management has reported more than 300,000 people have flown from Puerto Rico to Florida since the start of October. While it is unknown how many are staying, many of them are believed to have settled, principally in Central Florida, and unknown thousands are living in friends’ and relatives’ homes or in motels, looking for longer-term housing.

“The Florida Division of Economic Opportunity appreciates the support your community has extended to evacuees from Puerto Rico who are seeking refuge in your community due to Hurricane Maria,” Dennis wrote. “We are working hard to provide resources to help these families find job opportunities, temporary housing, and other forms of assistance in our state.”

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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