Walt Disney World to Build 1,300 Affordable Homes Near Orlando Park

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Walt Disney World is planning to lend a hand to the employees in its Orlando, Fla., park, as well as local residents, by building 1,300 units of affordable housing, the company announced. 

Disney is seeking a third-party developer to build out 80 acres of Disney-owned property for a new affordable housing complex in southwest Orange County, near the Flamingo Crossings Town Center retail complex.

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It wasn’t immediately clear how much of the housing would be available solely to employees — known as “performers” in Disney parlance, or if all the units would be deemed affordable.

“We are invested in working together with our community to solve complex issues,” said Jeff Vahle, president of Walt Disney World. “The lack of affordable housing is affecting many people across our country, including right here in central Florida. With this initiative, we’re lending a hand to make a real and meaningful impact in our community by tapping into the best of our company’s strengths. This is the right opportunity and the right time to take action.” 

In other parts of the world, Disney already plays a larger role in housing its employees. In Paris, Disney employees get housing at a discounted rate, while parks in Tokyo, Shanghai and Hong Kong provide housing to cast members.

Rental rates in Orlando have seen a 26 percent increase since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a late-March report from Apartment List. Nationally, on a year-over-year basis, the report places rent increases across the board at 17.1 percent.

Walt Disney World did not immediately respond to a request for additional information about price structure, cost of the project or an expected completion date.

It’s also not Disney’s first foray into housing in the United States. Previously, Disney revitalized the Orange County Housing Trust in California, which brought the ​​Buena Esperanza project into existence, according to Disney. There, developers converted a studio apartment community in Anaheim to affordable housing for veterans and homeless individuals experiencing mental illness, according to Spectrum News 1, which reported that funding also came from California Housing Finance Agency, U.S. Bank, California Community Reinvestment Corp. and Providence Hospital.

A similar Disney project called Finamore Place, also in Anaheim, is currently under construction to provide an additional 100 housing units and is expected to be completed in the summer of 2022, per Walt Disney World.

Mark Hallum can be reached at mhallum@commercialobserver.com.