Rob Panepinto unveils $20 million per year housing proposal in Orange mayor’s race

Rob Panepinto

Calling affordable housing one of the two most critical issues facing Orange County, mayoral candidate Rob Panepinto laid out a detailed housing plan Wednesday and pledged to push for $20 million a year in funding.

Panepinto, a Winter Park entrepreneur and leader among Central Florida’s business and nonprofit groups, declared that, as a critical issue for the next mayor, he sees affordable housing as “second only to the need for more higher wage jobs.”

“Right now, for too many families in Orange County, housing costs are too high,” Panepinto states in a 34-second video he released to tout his plan to voters. “In order to lower housing costs, we need to think differently and innovate.”

In the video, “Affordable Housing,” which the campaign will use in digital advertising, Panepinto briefly goes through highlights of the plan, such as fostering “creative public-private partnerships,” land trusts, land acquisitions, and conversions of existing properties.

Panepinto is running against Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings and Orange County Commissioner Pete Clarke in the Aug. 28 nonpartisan Orange County mayoral election. If no one gets more than 50 percent, the top two advance to a Nov. 6 showdown.

Clarke also has talked in some detail about affordable housing plans, focusing, among other things, on providing Orange County surplus land to nonprofits to develop, though he has not released a plan. Demings has pledged support for affordable housing initiatives but has offered less detail and no specific plan.

In a news release issued by his campaign, Panepinto declared that he would push to commit $20 million per year for four years, enough to build 8,000-10,000 units, with a goal of funding 50 percent through existing county resources and 50 percent from private and nonprofit sectors. He said that some of the money could be offered in the form of low-interest loans, which would be repaid and would replenish the fund for future projects.

The key points of Panepinto’s plan include:

— Build a local “Housing Innovation Fund” to reduce private market rents and home purchases that would be a partnership funded through county, business, and philanthropic dollars and be used to offset land, impact, permitting, inspection, etc.

— Seek state approval to abate the first year of county property taxes for first-time homebuyers.

— Expand zoning flexibility for multigenerational homes.

— Streamline current permitting and inspection process that are driving builder (and county) costs that are passed on to the buyer/renter.

— Continue and seek to expand existing community land trust opportunities within the county to ensure the protection of affordable housing options in gentrifying communities.

— Continue to move forward with recommendations from outgoing Mayor Teresa Jacobs’ Regional Task Force on Affordable Housing.

— Continue to support the regional Housing First initiative to increase housing options for the chronically-homeless and at-risk, low-income families.

Panepinto said that the money would be controlled and raised locally, and the fund would support private and nonprofit innovation.

“We will no longer be dependent on Tallahassee for support that may or may not be coming. And local politicians can no longer use Tallahassee’s raiding of the [state’s] Sadowski fund [for affordable housing] as an excuse for local inaction,” the release declares.

“A safe and affordable place to call home is part of the American dream, but for too many in Orange County, it is increasingly out of reach. Students graduating from our colleges, teachers and hardworking people in our service industries are living with multiple roommates to make ends meet. It is not sustainable in the long term for a thriving community,” Panepinto stated in the release.

Scott Powers

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 [email protected].


  • Bo Thomas

    August 4, 2018 at 2:45 pm

    So this guy is going to synthetically reduce rents by increasing supply of units funded by the very tax dollars local landlords pay by owning and renting duplex’s, small unit apartments and single family homes? The reason real estate values are high is because demand is high. Basically this guy is going to reduce the value of residential real estate with this plan. This is also going to lead to a lower tax base because taxes are derived by land values. I thought he was a business man? This is a ploy to get votes with a quasi altered derivative of- “I’m going to get you a house”. It’s a problem masked as a solution. Why not work to bring businesses into town that create higher paying jobs so more people can afford to pay for their “ideal” housing situation? I’ll tell you why. Because that won’t get you elected.

  • Dick batchelor

    August 8, 2018 at 7:46 pm

    $20,000,000 can’t possibly build 8-10,000 units. I wish it would but it is just not possible .
    He needs to get the Republican legislature to reinstate the $1 billion that they have swept from the Sadowski Act funds. Now, that would begin to attack this very real problem.

Comments are closed.


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