The Orange County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday to split over $2.7 million between five local affordable housing projects.

Portions of that sum are being granted to Habitat for Humanity, CASA, and EmPOWERment Inc. for the construction of low-income domiciles.

Habitat for Humanity will receive over $915,000 to build 24 owner-occupied townhouses for senior citizens that earn less than the area median income.

CASA was allocated over $1.3 million to provide 28 rental units for residents that earn less than the median income or currently live unsheltered.

EmPOWERment Inc. is being given over $475,000 to bring three houses to the market for residents that also earn less than the median income.

Despite these allocations, Yvette Mathews, an advocate program associate of the Community Empowerment Fund, insisted that more money is needed.

“By us winning the money, that shows that people can come together for a common cause and make things happen, and I know that you understand by this not being enough that we need more,” she stated. “Do we need to vote again — what do we need to do to get some more money, because we need more money.”

Delores Bailey, the executive director of EmPOWERment, noted that the money is welcome, but also admitted that affordable housing is a complex issue.

“EmPOWERment Inc. is one of the few landlords that accepts Section 8 vouchers, or housing choice vouchers; over 60 percent of our tenants are housing choice voucher holders,” she relayed. “Even though we’re able to help voucher holders, there are others we are not able to help.”

According to Mariela Hernandez, a zone navigator for the Family Success Alliance, several of the people that she helps are illegal immigrants.

Housing options for those people are limited, but Hernandez claimed that EmPOWERment may be able to secure dwellings for them on an individual basis.

“Even though these families are undocumented, they work and they pay taxes; they don’t qualify for housing vouchers, which they are not looking for, but they are looking for affordable housing, in which EmPOWERment can work for that, for them — they don’t check social security; they only check background,” she said.

Difficulties notwithstanding, Commissioner Mark Dorosin explained that county executives are committed to the continued development of housing solutions.

“We made a commitment to try to provide housing for the hardest-to-house members of our community, and that’s going to cost more at any time, but it’s even going to cost more now because all the good efforts we’ve made on affordable housing has not been targeted to that community,” he indicated.

The projects approved by board members are being funded through a bond of $5 million that was approved last year by voters in Orange County.

Photo by Community Home Trust.