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Steve Smith"Nearly two decades have passed since any affordable rental apartments were built in Clermont, causing hardships for many working households," according to New Beginnings President Steve Smith.

"We have a lot of people in Clermont who are struggling to find a place where they can afford to live," added Clermont Mayor Gail Ash. Affordable rentals are particularly challenging for the workforce of Clermont employed in retail and grocery stores, nursing facilities, hotels, and other service industries.

New Beginnings of Central Florida, a faith-based non-profit, spearheaded an initiative to address this housing problem. Thanks to $19 million funds being provided by the state, and through a partnership with New Beginnings and Blue Sky Communities, an experienced multi-family affordable housing developer, construction will begin on 96 high-quality apartments in late 2017.

The rents for one, two, or three bedroom units will range from $550 to $750 per month, more than 30 percent less than current market rental rates in Clermont.

"We appreciate what New Beginnings is doing in our community," said Ash.

Florida Housing Finance Corporation provided New Beginnings the funds to purchase 10 acres in Clermont several years ago. This summer, Florida Housing awarded funds to only three agencies in the state to build affordable workforce housing for formerly homeless and low-income wage earners. The partnership of New Beginnings and Blue Sky was one of the three who received the award.

"Jeff Powell, a local architect, has been hired to prepare the drawings and the project will provide many construction jobs," Smith continued. "Local working class people will have a beautiful, safe and affordable choice for housing, allowing more disposable income to spend on food, clothing, medical/dental, and saving toward the purchase of a home."

Woodwinds, the name of the future community, will have a clubhouse, and according to New Beginnings, residents will have access to specialty classes, such as budgeting, parenting, wellness, medical advice, life skills and job training programs. New Beginnings also hopes to offer after school and summer programs for the children.

Smith, recognized the need for affordable housing several years ago. He said their program has achieved a high success rate with clients by transforming more than 300 formerly homeless and unemployed clients during a nine month transitional program.

But while graduates secure stable employment, they often struggle to find affordable rentals in Clermont.

"I am very grateful that many prayers were heard and years of planning are coming together," said Smith, "as the needs for more affordable rentals are greatly needed in Clermont."

The current rental rates for a two bedroom apartment in Clermont cost more than $1000/month on average. In 2001, Osprey Ridge Apartment Community was built with state tax credit funding. Although this affordable community has 176 units, there is currently a two year waiting list for a two bedroom apartment.

Lake County Housing Director, Cheryl Howell, said, "The economic driver of every community is having ample affordable housing. We are glad that the state recognizes the need in Lake County and is providing the funds to New Beginnings to build an affordable housing community."

New Beginnings, established in 2007 and headquartered in Clermont, notes that the number one cause of homelessness is the lack of affordable housing. The 501(c)3 organization offers transitional housing for up to 26 homeless single ladies, mothers with children, and single men at any one time. They also provide low-cost rental housing for low-income families, veterans, seniors and single men in eight homes acquired over the years and spread throughout Clermont.

Woodwinds Apartments will accelerate that service and help more than 100 residents.

State awards $19 million to provide affordable housing through partnership with New Beginnings
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