Winter Park must confront housing shortage.
This year, 30,500 people work in Winter Park and 31,200 people live there, creating an employee-to-population ratio of 98 percent. The Orlando-Kissimmee metropolitan statistical area has 1,122,000 employees, and a population of 2,464,000, creating a much lower employeeto-population ratio of 46 percent. Thus, Winter Park is an obvious employment hub, attracting many employees from outside of the city daily. Winter Park should look to address this employee housing shortage.
Housing in Winter Park is also very expensive. The median home value is $381,000, compared with $206,000 for the MSA. Per-capita income is very high in Winter Park, $49,500 versus $27,500 for the MSA. Thus, many who work in the city cannot afford to live there. To create a more sustainable community, Winter Park needs to allow opportunity for more people who work in their community the ability to live there. This would allow social relationships to develop deeper community roots. This would also reduce the use of fossil fuels, wasted commute time, and congestion on our roadways.
Also, over the past 30 years or so, the affordable housing of Winter Park’s west side has been shrinking, as large, expensive new homes have replaced them. One alternative to this trend is to encourage higher-density microhousing that would be more affordable for workers. This area between Park Avenue and U.S. Highway 17-92 will continue to be under redevelopment pressure; a clear vision should guide its redevelopment.
Winter Park was chartered in 1887. It was conceived as a realestate development for wealthy Northerners to have a winter home on Winter Park’s chain of lakes. Over time, the public hotels on Lake Osceola have been replaced with private housing. This has decreased access to the chain of lakes, which has been largely privatized, leaving many residents and visitors with little access. Access to these natural community amenities should be improved. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to have dinner on Park Avenue and then go for a stroll down to a pier overlooking Lake Osceola?
I have been working with municipalities and developers since 1986. Over this 30-year period, I have become more and more concerned with our growing health, social and environmental problems. Traditional urban-planning models do not seem to address these issues in a comprehensive manner.
During the past few years, I have been studying biological systems to better understand how man fits into the environment. Urban planners do not talk much about biology. But biology sees community as a living system. Cells are the building blocks of organisms, and groups of organisms make up communities, and communities of organisms make up ecosystems. I believe our mounting problems are due to our unbalanced view of life, and to our poor relationship with each other, and with our environment.
With basic biological principles, we can get back on track. If we do not, our growing health, social and environmental problems will overwhelm us.
Winter Park needs a sustainable vision, a living master plan of what it should be in the future. This master plan should address our current health, social and environmental issues. Winter Park must confront these issues to become a more caring, integrated community.
David Marks is president of Marketplace Advisors Inc. in Orlando.