HANDS of Central Florida,Inc. - History


BACKGROUND - Housing and Neighborhood Development Services of Central Florida, Inc. (HANDS) is a private not-for-profit housing corporation created in July of 1989. HANDS is a 501 (C)(3) organization incorporated in the State of Florida. HANDS was created by members of the Board of Directors of the Orange County Housing Finance Authority to provide affordable housing opportunities for the residents of Central Florida.

MISSION - HANDS was founded to assist Central Florida communities to increase the supply and availability of affordable housing. HANDS seeks to achieve this mission by providing the following services: In accomplishing this mission, HANDS works to establish partnerships with other non-profit organizations, governments and the business community to build, acquire, rehabilitate and manage low cost housing units which are sold or rented to individuals and families at below market rate. HANDS also operates an Affordable Housing Resource Center, which provides information, counseling and referral services free of cost to very low, low and moderate-income persons in search of affordable housing. The organization serves mainly residents of Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Lake Counties.


The Resource Center was established in February 1990 with Community Development Block Grant assistance from the Orange County Community Development Department and funding support from Orange County Housing Finance Authority. The Center is presently being funded by HUD and HANDS general fund budget. HANDS Affordable Housing Resource Center was created as a result of Orange County's Task Force on Affordable Housing. In September 1989, the Task Force made several recommendations to address the affordable housing needs of the community. One of their recommendations was to support the activities of HANDS in its goal of facilitating housing opportunities for the low and moderate-income individuals. Another important recommendation was the establishment of an Affordable Housing Resource Center. HANDS took the lead in implementing the Center. Before the establishment of HANDS, a central location to transmit information on affordable housing programs and assistance did not exist in Central Florida.
The Center serves as a clearinghouse for information on affordable housing programs and housing assistance available to residents and housing providers in Central Florida. The Resource Center is the first organization in Central Florida to offer this service. Since its inception, over 3,200 low-income residents ANNUALLY have received information referrals and technical assistance from the Center.


In January 1992, the services of HANDS Affordable Housing Resource Center were expanded to include a First Time Homebuyers Program with the goal of assisting low-income families in the tri-county area to become homebuyers. Clients are served by a staff of counselors who evaluate each person's purchasing capability, educate and counsel clients on the homebuying process and homeownership. The homebuyer-counseling program uses a centralized "one stop" approach, which benefits buyers. Clients are assisted through the homebuying process as the counselor guides and assists them and coordinates the homebuying process on behalf of the client, counselors advocate and troubleshoot when necessary to facilitate communication between the clients, lenders, realtors and others involved in the homebuying process. Both pre-purchase and post-purchase counseling is provided to clients. Clients are also assisted in accessing sources of financial assistance for down payment and closing costs. In some cases, homebuyers received assistance in restoring credit and negotiating "softer" credit terms with lenders.
In the first three years of its operation, the program has made a tremendous impact in assisting many low-income families to realize their dream of homeownership.
The first client's loan was closed in March 1992 and since then a total of 38,645 (8,308 in 1998) families received counseling and over 2,600 have become homeowners. The average income of the homebuyer was $23,500 (approximately 60% of the median income) and the average purchase price of the home was $65,000. Fifty-three percent of all buyers were ethnic minorities and forty-nine percent single parents. Homebuyers are also assisted to obtain "down payment assistance" through State and Orange County Mortgage Bond Programs and Osceola County and Seminole County Down Payment Assistance Program.
In addition, HANDS also assisted Osceola County and Orange County in the implementation of their State Housing Initiative Partnership (SHIP) plans for down payment assistance to low-income, first-time purchasers who received homebuyers counseling from HANDS.
In 1988, HANDS was awarded the Home Buyers Counseling Contract from Seminole County and through 2001 administered and presented the homebuyer seminar and down payment assistance training on a regular basis to qualified Seminole County residents for down payment assistance.
The success of the homebuyers program is linked to the support and goodwill HANDS has received from the Central Florida Community. Donations and financial assistance have come from local organizations and local lenders have become partners with HANDS in the process. These organizations not only refer clients to the program, but also provide volunteers, workbooks and accommodations for Homebuyers Education Seminars, which HANDS provides free to every client as an integral part of the counseling program.


HANDS was selected by Seminole County in June of 1995 to administer a portion of their Housing Rehabilitation program for owner-occupied properties owned by very low-income homeowners. Assistance with rehabilitation will include funding, counseling, work write-ups, rehabilitation bidding and contractor selection in order for houses to be brought up to housing code.


HANDS has joined with local governments, private developers, lenders and other non-profit corporations to create housing opportunities for low and moderate-income individuals in the Central Florida area.
Since its inception, HANDS has developed 191 and sold 191 new single-family units. HANDS has acquired or built 1074 affordable rental units, which are primarily rented to low-income families. HANDS developments have been the recipients of awards, including three of the prestigious "Golden Brick Awards" by the Downtown Orlando Partnership.
HANDS participated on the Steering Committee of the Holden Heights Art & Architecture Program organized by the Orlando Board of Realtors is building four single-family homes in the Holden Heights neighborhood which will be affordable to lower-income families. The four homes ranged from 2-4 bedrooms and sold for $108,000 - $126,000.
In 2004 HANDS assisted in Housing Counseling and identifying clients for three of the four single-family homes developed under the Holden Heights Art & Architecture Program. One homebuyer was a member of the Orange County Section 8 Family-Self-Sufficiency program.
HANDS is currently counseling 37 candidates for the Winter Park - Hannibal Square Art & Architecture program. Homes are to be closed by September 30, 2005.