Disney has announced it is developing an 80-acre piece of Walt Disney World Resort property to be home to a new affordable housing development for Cast Members and the Central Florida community. Unfortunately, the discouraging reality is that it seems like Disney is missing the big picture.
Disney’s affordable housing development in Orange County is currently underway, built by the Michaels Organization, west of State Road 429. The development is expected to include more than 1,300 units, with the incredible location just a few short miles away from Magic Kingdom Park.
With a rent cap in place, the future residents of the attainable housing will be limited to applicants within a certain income range. However, Disney has yet to release what that range or other qualifications may look like for its future residents.
While Disney is praised for its efforts to offer affordable housing with 1,300 units, Disney is in the spotlight at the moment as Cast Members with Union organizations are in negotiations with the company, pushing for a much-needed increase in Walt Disney World’s median pay of $16.50 per hour.
Jeremy Haicken, Union President for 18,000 Cast Members at Disney with Unite Here Local 737, states, “Workers don’t need affordable housing, they need to be able to afford their housing.” He adds, “A few thousand low-income or affordable units are a drop in the bucket, even though it’s a nice start.”
While there is no question that creating affordable housing units is “a positive step,” the stats behind the need for Walt Disney World to increase its minimum wage to $18 per hour are evident. Orlando Sentinel reports, “A recent union study calculated 69% of workers struggled to pay for housing each month and 39% worried about becoming homeless on earnings reaching a median of $16.50 an hour, or $34,320 annually.”
Could the investment of Disney’s housing development be better spent if Disney were to invest that expense in all of its Cast Members? Haicken believes so.
In a similar situation, Disney’s theme park giant competitor, Universal Orlando Resort, is also developing affordable housing for its Universal Parks Team Members and local community residents. Much like Disney’s affordable housing project, Universal faces the question of wage increases versus the need to develop its 750 to 1,000 units for housing affordability.
As always, we will continue to keep Disney Dining readers updated as we learn more about the Union and Disney negotiation in median pay, as well as the details as Disney’s new affordable housing development comes to light.