Disney’s newest attraction in Florida: affordable housing

Living near the House of Mouse could cost you an arm and a leg. And now Disney DIS,
-2.24%
takes a page out of the Silicon Valley book to tackle the problem.

Walt Disney World is reserving approximately 80 acres on its property for a new affordable housing development. The resort expects the development will be in excess of 1,300 units and will be built by a third party developer.

Accommodation will be made available to “Qualified Applicants” in the Central Florida, Disney area it says in the press releaseincluding employees of Walt Disney World, aka cast members.

“The lack of affordable housing is affecting many people in our country, including here in central Florida,” Jeff Vahle, president of Walt Disney World Resort, said in the announcement.

Disney’s affordable housing plans follow similar efforts by its main competitor, Universal Parks & Resorts. Comcast-owned CMCSA,
-0.29%
Universal has partnered with a local developer to build 1,000 rent-control homes in Orlando published details of the plan at the end of March.

Continue reading: Apple, Facebook, Google and Amazon are pouring billions of dollars into affordable housing – but that money may be too little, too late

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, Orlando rental prices have increased by 26%. according to a March report from the real estate website Apartment List. That puts Orlando in the top 10 cities nationwide for rental growth, behind places like Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Miami.

In the last six months alone, Orlando rents are up 6% — the country’s third-fastest growth rate in that span.

The high cost of housing in Central Florida has been a major headache for Disney theme park employees, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. Many Walt Disney World employees have been laid off or furloughed as theme parks remained closed for months. Disney then sought to rehire many of these workers and began offering incentives, such as hiring bonuses, to attract applicants. In October, Disney raised the minimum wage for its Florida workers to $15 an hour.

“We’re proud of the bar we’ve set to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2021, which is among the highest in the country for entry-level service workers,” a Disney spokeswoman told Orlando in 2019 Sentinel when the company announced its $15 hourly rate. Employee benefits include health insurance, an on-site health clinic and discounted groceries sold at an on-site shop, the Sentinel reported.

But even before COVID struck, many theme park employees had trouble affording an apartment near their place of work if they earn that rate. Some Disney employees have been left homeless, and some are forced to live in nearby motels or sleep in their cars due to a lack of affordable housing in the area. The Coalition for the Homeless in Central Florida appreciated that the region needs around 25,000 apartments.

In that sense, Disney and Universal are following the lead of other industries that have grappled with the negative impact of rising housing costs. In recent years, several Silicon Valley companies, such as Apple AAPL,
-1.85%,
Google mother Alphabet GOOGL,
-2.88%
and Facebook parent Meta FB,
-3.68%,
have created funds or reserved land to promote affordable housing in the California area.

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/disneys-latest-florida-attraction-affordable-housing-11649275092?rss=1&siteid=rss Disney’s newest attraction in Florida: affordable housing

Brian Lowry

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