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Village on Mercy Provides Supportive Housing in Orlando, Florida

Cluster of three-apartment buildings connected by sidewalks and surrounding a central courtyard.
View of a three-story apartment building with a road in the foreground.
Picnic tables, benches, and pergolas in a large courtyard with a three-story apartment building in the background.
A large room with three rows of tables and chairs.
 A preschool classroom with bookshelves along a wall and globes and desktop country flags in the foreground.
A small computer lab with workstations.


Home > Case Studies > Village on Mercy Provides Supportive Housing in Orlando, Florida


Village on Mercy Provides Supportive Housing in Orlando, Florida


Opened in 2019 in Orlando, Florida, Village on Mercy is a 166-unit apartment complex serving families and individuals who are low-income, exiting homelessness, or living with a disability. Village on Mercy originated from a broader visioning process begun in 2017 to revitalize Mercy Drive, a corridor located along the city’s western border, and increase the supply of quality affordable housing in an area that had experienced decline and blight. The project operates under a Housing First framework to lower the barrier to entry to permanent housing, offering tenants housing without considering credit history, eviction record, or criminal background. For its work to fill a gap in affordable housing and support vulnerable households, Village on Mercy won a 2022 Charles L. Edson Tax Credit Excellence Award in the Large Metropolitan Area category.

Community Visioning

In 2015, the city of Orlando purchased seven foreclosed multifamily properties from Fannie Mae along Mercy Drive and in the Washington Shores area (approximately 2 miles south of Mercy Drive) for nearly $7 million. These former affordable housing sites had fallen into disrepair and had substandard living conditions. The city razed all the properties with the goal of transforming them into quality affordable housing. Three of the blighted and vacant apartment buildings that the city purchased occupied a 13-acre site within a 15-minute drive of downtown Orlando. In 2017, the city sold the site for $1.34 million to nonprofit affordable housing developer Ability Housing to construct Village on Mercy. In April 2018, officials from Ability Housing, the city of Orlando, and Florida Housing Finance Corporation broke ground on Village on Mercy. The Village became a catalyst for implementation of a broader plan for the neighborhood. In March 2017, the city began a community visioning process for the Mercy Drive corridor engaging in a series of workshops with local residents that resulted in the Mercy Drive Vision Plan. The plan proposed using city-owned land to provide new affordable housing opportunities and boost revitalization efforts in this low-income, underserved area. In addition to housing, residents recommended making safety improvements to the streetscape, increasing access to nearby Lake Lawne, and training neighborhood residents in construction work. To fulfill this vision, the city ensured that all the foreclosed properties could be sold to responsible landlords who would create quality affordable housing.

Serving Vulnerable Households

Village on Mercy consists of 166 units — 43 studios, 43 one-bedroom, 50 two-bedroom, and 30 three-bedroom units — across 4 buildings. A total of 141 units are affordable to households earning up to 60 percent of the area median income (AMI), and 25 units are set aside for those earning up to 40 percent of AMI. To ensure that the property can serve Central Florida’s most vulnerable residents, half of the units are reserved for individuals who previously experienced homelessness, and 5 percent are reserved for residents with disabilities. According to Shannon Nazworth, president and chief executive officer of Ability Housing, the nonprofit targets "people who have been on the streets the longest, [facing] the highest barriers," to housing and services. "Ability Housing has always embraced Housing First" and strives to "screen everyone in." Some of the apartments that target people exiting homelessness are permanent supportive housing units that residents can access through a coordinated entry system that local Continuum of Care agencies administer. Ability Housing allocates the remaining units targeting people exiting homelessness in collaboration with homeless service providers and local partners. To further reduce barriers to entry for residents, security deposits and application fees are low.

Providing Supportive Services

Village on Mercy offers wraparound services to help tenants remain stably housed and improve their quality of life. Since Village on Mercy opened, more than 800 residents are estimated to have benefited from the development’s onsite supportive services and amenities. Nazworth explained that the services offered are based on residents’ requests and range from budgeting workshops to cooking classes. Onsite case managers and peer support services help residents access medical care, behavioral health care, job programs, and other community resources to develop skills for independent living. The property includes a multipurpose room, a training room, and an outdoor courtyard for residents to meet informally, host gatherings, and attend programs. The building also offers an onsite satellite clinic to a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) a mile away. The onsite satellite clinic provides health screenings and referrals to providers at the FQHC and specialists in the area. In addition to a common laundry room on each floor, residents have access to an onsite computer lab to conduct job searches or complete schoolwork. During the construction, Ability Housing collaborated with its general contractor to offer job fairs to help local residents obtain construction jobs at Village on Mercy. Nazworth indicated that employing residents is a common practice for the nonprofit to keep construction resources and workers in the neighborhood, boosting workforce skills and collective pride for the development.

In 2020, the property achieved Florida Green Building Coalition Platinum certification for its environmentally friendly design, enhancement of natural features, and resiliency in Florida’s hot and humid environment. Located on Lake Lawne, Village on Mercy offers outdoor play and recreation areas along a lake trail, further fulfilling community desires for better access to nature. Through a grant from Wells Fargo, Ability Housing purchased equipment to create exercise stations along the walking trail. As Nazworth explained, all the units have ENERGY STAR® appliances and low-maintenance landscaping. In addition, the building has an efficient heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system and a highly insulated envelope that keeps the building cool in the warm Florida weather and reduces utility costs for residents.

The property also includes a Bezos Academy Preschool that opened in March 2023 to provide full-day, year-round learning for children at no cost. The school is part of a 10-year agreement between Ability Housing and Bezos Academy. Students receive breakfast, lunch, and a take-home dinner. The school allocates several priority placement slots to children living at Village on Mercy. Through the school located on the property, Village on Mercy is further working to reduce intergenerational poverty. In addition to attending the preschool, young residents can attend an afterschool program, which emerged through a partnership between Ability Housing and nonprofit Morgan Ministries’ Reach Mentoring program, to access enrichment activities and mentorship in a safe and positive environment. The school, afterschool enrichment programs, and the housing are fulfilling the goals of the Mercy Drive Vision Plan to foster a stronger community and improve the quality of life of neighborhood residents.


Funding for the $27.4 million development came from several federal, state, and local sources (table 1). Approximately $19 million was generated through 9 percent low-income housing tax credit equity syndicated by Enterprise Community Investment. A total of $5 million came from the State Apartment Incentive Loan (SAIL) program from the Florida Housing Finance Corporation. The SAIL program offers low-interest loans to affordable housing developers in need of gap financing for projects that set aside units for low-income families and individuals.

Table 1. Funding for Village on Mercy

9 percent low-income housing tax credit equity $19,400,000
SAIL program 5,000,000
Development Viability Loan, Florida Housing Finance Corporation 1,300,000
Deferred developer fee 1,700,000
Total $27,400,000

Fulfilling a Vision

Through the community visioning process, the city demonstrated its commitment to affordable housing, and it was a dedicated partner in bringing Village on Mercy to fruition, said Nazworth. The last remaining city-owned parcel was successfully redeveloped into Fairlawn Village, a 116-unit affordable housing project opened in May 2023, with 20 units designated as permanent supportive housing for residents exiting homelessness, domestic violence survivors, people with disabilities, and young people aging out of foster care. Collectively, these developments are fulfilling the city’s goal to transform formerly abandoned sites into high-quality affordable housing that offers residents better access to education, jobs, and services. As of 2023, the city’s purchase of the seven parcels has yielded more than $115 million in private investment to improve the quality of life of area residents.


The contents of this article are the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or the U.S. Government.