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Affordable housing project for families, seniors moves forward

Mark Parker



A rendering of the Hartford project, which will provide 85 affordable units for seniors and families near the 34th Street North corridor. Image: Blue Sky Communities.

A long-awaited housing project in St. Petersburg’s Disston Heights neighborhood is inching forward and will eventually provide 97 affordable units for low-income families and seniors.

The St. Petersburg Housing Authority (SPHA) recently announced a partnership with prolific affordable housing developer Blue Sky Communities to bring the “Hartford project” to fruition. The 1.35-acre site at Hartford Street and 32nd Avenue North is about a quarter mile from the 34th Street (U.S. Hwy. 19) corridor.

The city council approved a rezoning request Feb. 15 that allows the affordable housing partners to increase the development’s density. Scott Macdonald, partner at Blue Sky, credited local officials for helping address a pressing need.

“What they have recently shown is they’re not going to cave to NIMBYs – not in my backyard people,” Macdonald told the Catalyst. “Because this is a crisis, and these are our neighbors. To say we’re not going to help them by building more is something that the city has said is not going to happen in St. Petersburg.”

SPHA’s board first announced the Hartford project in November 2021. According to a report from WFLA, the initial plan called for 47 units, with 12 reserved for seniors.

At the time, the SPHA capped income levels at 60% of the area median income (AMI). That is now $41,760 for a two-person household in Pinellas County.

Macdonald said most of the new project’s units are still for those earning less than 60% of the AMI, and none will exceed 80%. That equates to $55,680 for a two-person household.

According to Florida Housing Data Clearinghouse statistics, monthly rent limits for a two-bedroom apartment at those income levels are $1,174 and $1,566, respectively. Macdonald noted that soaring home prices acutely impact elderly residents.

“They don’t have the benefit of increased wages to help keep up with increased housing costs,” he said. “Theoretically, their fixed income should increase as interest rates rise. But a lot of times, there’s a lag there when it comes to Social Security increasing, which can create some real hardships for the elderly.”

Macdonald said the new proposal is “really three separate projects” encompassing 131 apartments. The Hartford site will house 97 new units.

The partners are also renovating the adjacent Saratoga Apartments at 3475 32nd Ave. N. The SPHA currently owns the 34-unit affordable housing development.

The developers will also create an outdoor recreational space with pickleball and shuffleboard courts. “It’s important to provide more than just housing – a true improvement in quality of life,” Macdonald said.

Mayor Ken Welch (right) and Scott Macdonald, partner at Blue Sky Communities, at a June 2023 groundbreaking ceremony. Photo by Mark Parker.

“It’s important to create a community where people can interact and socialize – particularly for the elderly,” he added. “A lot of these amenities will integrate everyone on those three sites to hopefully improve the social experience for residents.”

Macdonald said the project did not “stall,” per se, as Blue Sky initiated the rezoning process before signing a master development agreement with the SPHA. Once that was complete, the partners waited for SPHA’s board approval to announce the new collaborative plan.

The organization serves over 4,000 low-income households in St. Petersburg. SPHA also provides various social services to foster resident self-sufficiency.

“We could not be more thrilled to pursue this development opportunity as the latest step in fulfilling our mission to provide safe, affordable housing to the residents of St. Petersburg, especially in a time of such great need,” said SPHA Board Chairman James Dates in a prepared statement. “Our board will always lend support in this critical effort.”

Blue Sky broke ground March 6 on its latest affordable development, the Skyway Lofts II. The minimum income threshold is just 22% of the AMI, and monthly rents start at $358.

The local developer’s Bear Creek Commons senior housing project is under construction in West St. Petersburg. Blue Sky has partnered with Pinellas County and city officials to provide hundreds of affordable units throughout the area.

Macdonald credited SPHA’s housing experience. He also noted the organization also provides U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) vouchers that provide critical funding and lower project income limits.

Blue Sky offers an application website with periodic updates after construction commences. The SPHA also provides an online application and waitlist portal.

Macdonald said the process takes intuitiveness and planning. He encourages those interested to keep their financial information updated and frequently check for application openings.

“I think being able to get into one of these properties can really be life-changing,” Macdonald said. “Both from a social standpoint, but also more importantly a financial standpoint.”



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  1. Avatar


    March 20, 2024at3:59 pm

    And what about a widow like me? I was widowed from a united stated navy veteran and denied his benefits and nearly went homeless because of it.
    I’m only 53, to young to actually be considered a senior.
    I’m a front line worker but none of this seems to matter.
    While I happy for these seniors, what happens to someone like me who would have been homeless but for the generosity of friends and the goodness of God.

  2. Avatar

    Donna Kostreva

    March 19, 2024at8:32 pm

    Whoop dee do! 12/47 will be elderly housing. How much for disbked veterans?

  3. Avatar


    March 19, 2024at6:33 pm

    It very nice where to go hope soon nice building olive

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