Central Florida woman retires and spends her savings on building affordable housing – WFTV

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SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla .– Kimberly Fogle practically jumps around the jobsite, hurrying from a pile of bricks to an unfinished staircase. His energy never falters. No detail escapes him.

A friendly “hello” to the HVAC technician turned into a questioning session on his calendar on the upstairs units. A disapproving frown was raised when she noticed the location of the capacitors behind the middle building.

“It’ll block the view from the bedrooms,” she mumbled. Too late, it wasn’t worth moving them.

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Fogle shows every thoughtful detail. The retractable door in the bathroom separating the shower from the sink, additional pantry space in the kitchen. It is as if she is moving into one of the 10 housing units under construction. It is not. She owns the entire complex.

This is a project that has been going on for years and unusual in almost every way: A newly retired woman is cashing in her retirement savings to build affordable housing. Something that few developers offer, but that many families need.

Fogle believes this is the key to Central Florida’s future.

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The awakening of the dream

Fogle’s new passion began when she thought about the next chapter in her life after 30 years in the insurance industry. She had spent years volunteering with various groups, including the Coalition for the Homeless, and turned to them for ideas.

“I said, ‘What’s missing?’ », She remembers. “They all said the same thing, housing, and I said, ‘Okay, I have no idea how to do that. I never even built a niche. But you know, how difficult can it be?

Several years later, Fogle laughs when she tells this story. Weeks spent researching properties, fire codes, building material costs and more. Racing to pick up supplies with his midsize SUV. Meetings with municipal authorities and neighbors. Not to mention, a pandemic threatening to close its site.

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Finally, the complex is almost finished. There are 10 units, each with two bedrooms and one bathroom, spread across three buildings near downtown Sanford. His plan is to rent them out for $ 925 a piece, which is about $ 700 less than market value. Her future tenants are single parents, but a few nonprofits are working with her to match people from all walks of life. All units have been allocated.

Fogle’s conversations with leaders of nonprofit organizations rang true: Orlando, including Seminole County, is experiencing a severe housing affordability crisis. Rental websites like ApartmentGuide and Zumper rank Central Florida as having the third highest rent increase in the country in 2021, with the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment downtown rising from around $ 1,200 per month to over $ 1,600 per month.

Pair that with developers making more money building luxury homes, which they have no problem filling thanks to the thousands of wealthy New Yorkers, Californians, and other out-of-state imports. who decide to seek more favorable weather and fiscal environments. Funds for affordable housing have also been underfunded for years due to state politicians tapping into it for pet projects. What remains is a workforce of cooks, waiters, teachers and other essential jobs who need housing within a reasonable distance of their paychecks but cannot find a place to go. to live.

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Local politicians recently asked Gov. Ron DeSantis to investigate rent increases using predatory pricing laws, but officials admit they depend on small nonprofits to fill the void.

“Affordable state-subsidized housing is one of the most difficult types to achieve because funds are limited,” said Elizabeth Dang, director of the Orlando planning division. “We really have to rely on the market to supply it to us. “

Fogle’s project is the answer they were looking for.

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Building the future

Fogle’s tendency to look before you jump has served her well throughout the planning and building process. She refused site after site until she found what she was looking for: a piece of land a stone’s throw from the city center, next to a playground and a bus stop. It’s also close to a General Dollar, she noted.

“This is the key to making it work for people,” she explained. “If they live in a place where they still have to buy a car or the transport takes two hours to get to where they are going to work, it is not sustainable. “

The lack of single-family homes around the site prevented opposition from neighbors. She saved money by double-checking contractors’ claims and spent more when she deemed it necessary. She wanted her buildings to look good and perform several functions. A gathering space fills the first floor of a building, perfect for its nonprofit partners to come and teach financial wellness classes or just hold meetings. She has also installed coin-operated washing machines so her tenants don’t have to venture off the property.

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A few days away from the tenants before moving in, she has almost finished micromanaging this site. She plans to retire once the keys are distributed and has hired a property manager to oversee day-to-day operations and maintenance. His mind turns to the vacant lot across the street.

“I’m looking forward to my next property so I can do the same again,” she said. “I feel like if God made me learn all of this, I don’t think I should be and do it.”

What Fogle hopes is that this project, funded entirely by her, will be a proof of concept. She envisions that her apartments will provide workers for businesses in downtown Sanford while allowing them to build a financial foundation, and that even the most skeptical business owners and town leaders will support her efforts when they see the results.

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No longer having retirement savings to draw from, she will need their help to start her future projects.

“The community as a whole cannot do better than our most vulnerable people,” she philosophized. “So we all have to find a way to increase them because it affects us all. “

She also hopes to be a resource for those trying to resolve the crisis their own way. Whether it’s a family looking to convert their property to a duplex or someone else willing to give up their 401 (k), they want to steer them away from the mistakes they made and bring new units to the market. Marlet.

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“I think it’s a very complex problem, and I think everyone has to be part of the solution,” she said.

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