VIDEO: Developer sues after Apopka blocks affordable housing development, insists on ‘luxury’ A Central Florida developer has filed a lawsuit against the City of Apopka. (Nick Papantonis, WFTV.com/WFTV)
APOPKA, Fla. — A Central Florida developer has filed a lawsuit against the city of Apopka, alleging that a restriction placed on property within the city’s “crown jewel” that mandates housing for wealthy individuals violates the Housing Act. Florida fair.
Southwick Commons, Ltd, a subsidiary of Wendover Housing Partners, filed the lawsuit Thursday after city leaders blocked a planned affordable housing project on the downtown site, which broke ground earlier this year.
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Plans called for a 195-unit workforce housing complex on a portion of the property near the Hilton Garden Inn and Highland Manor. The developers said they received more than $10 million in government loans to develop the property to serve low-income families, and the city certified that their project followed city land use regulations, including compliance with the restriction against subsidized housing.
However, city leaders refused permission for the project in May, citing their desire to see luxury units on the site, something that had been written into the development agreement since the project was first proposed in 2006.
“We’re looking for luxury,” said Mayor Bryan Nelson. “We’re looking for people who can walk to our downtown and have a cup of coffee, and don’t mind spending $4 or $5 or getting a beer after work or whatever.”
Another council member echoed his sentiment, explaining that subsidized housing could threaten near-market home values and a sense of community. Both comments were cited in the lawsuit.
Reached by email on Friday, Nelson said he had no problem with affordable housing, just not at that property.
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“We only have one site in the entire city of Apopka that has a Developer Agreement (DA) that restricts the subsidy of multi-family housing,” he wrote. “All other properties that are in the City of Apopka with proper zoning are unrestricted when it comes to affordable housing.”
While activists applauded the prospect of adding more density to the county’s famous corner, they criticized what they called coded language used by city leaders and their desire to reserve the property for the wealthy.
“Luxury is kind of a code term for how our neighborhood is defined and who is excluded from it. We see it more with affordable housing,” said Orlando YIMBY Leader Maddi Lynch. “’Those kind of people don’t belong to the luxury neighbourhoods,’ as if they changed the character [or] lower the value.”
Lynch began by talking about mixed-income housing, a relatively new trend in urban planning that incorporates units for different income levels within the same building.
Many cities require new developments to be designed that way. The concept was included in nearly every major project at Orlando’s Creative Village, which is marketed as a new high-end section of downtown.
“We want mixed-income communities because we want many different types of people in our urban centers,” Lynch explained, adding that businesses need places for workers to live. “That’s what makes a healthy community.”
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Southwick Commons is asking the court to remove the exclusionary language from Apopka so it can continue to develop the property.
The Apopka city attorney said he had not received the lawsuit as of Friday afternoon and was unable to offer a response to the claims he made.
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