Disney To Open Affordable Housing Near Walt Disney World, Company Notes After Pounding By Gov. DeSantis; New Reedy Creek Board Has A Plan

Disney said Wednesday that “affordable and attainable housing” around Walt Disney World, which it first announced a year ago, will be ready to open in 2026. “This type of land contribution is unique and is one of many ways we are making a lasting impact in Central Florida,” according to a post on the Disney Parks Blog. It comes two days after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis included a lack affordable housing on his list of reasons to slam the House of Mouse.

The governor even threatened to consider building a new state prison near WDW in an ongoing feud over who has operational control over thousands of acres in south Florida — Disney or the state.  

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Said Disney: “We’ve been making more and more progress on this initiative every day, and now, we’re thrilled to share that groundbreaking on this development is targeted for next year, with the first units anticipated to be completed in 2026.” It has expanded the project by 100 units to about 1,400.

“To be able to offer more units means even more Florida families will get access to attainable housing, in addition to creating new Florida jobs as part of the construction and operation.” It said the property is several miles from Magic Kingdom, near schools and shopping. The development will be privately financed and limited to applicants within a certain income range.  

WDW President Jeff Vahle met earlier this week with developer The Michaels Organization “and we discussed how we hope this development inspires others in the community and across the country to support this important issue in innovative ways.” Disney also noted it recently joined Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida for the opening of a newly renovated youth center that included a $100,000 Disney grant. It also said Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort donated more than $300,000 to local community food banks.

The governor has drawn fire for retaliating against Disney after the conglom spoke out last year against a new state law critics dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” that forbids discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in public schools through third grade. Lawmakers rescinded Disney’s longstanding autonomy over what was called the Reedy Creek Improvement District, but appeared to have been outmaneuvered by a development agreement with the state by the former Disney-appointed Reedy Creek board. DeSantis vows to overturn that deal and assert control over the company, taking an aggressive stance against the state’s biggest taxpayer and one of its biggest employers.

“We’ve always respected and appreciated what the state has done for us, but it’s kind of been a two-way street,” Disney CEO Bob Iger said recently.

DeSantis’ new handpicked board of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District met earlier today and discussed how they might proceed. The board will argue that procedural flaws around public notice nullify the agreement that gave Disney exclusive development rights, according to the Orlando Sentinel. The agreement was made publicly and out in the open, as Disney has said. But an attorney for the board today said state law requires notice to be mailed to all affected property owners ahead of time, which didn’t happen.

“The bottom line is that Disney engaged in a caper worthy of Scrooge McDuck to try to evade Florida law,” said David H. Thompson, a lawyer with the Cooper & Kirk law firm, according to the Sentinel.

A Disney rep wasn’t immediately available for comment.

The battle in Florida continues as Disney staffers brace for company-wide layoffs next week.

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