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Construction begins on $17M affordable housing project

Veronica Brezina

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A rendering of the Innovare Apartments from the northwest perspective. All renderings are from Volunteers of America of Florida.

City and Pinellas County officials turned dirt at 850 5th Ave. S. in St. Petersburg Friday morning, marking the start of construction for 50 new apartment homes. 

The nearly $17 million project is being developed by Volunteers of America of Florida, a faith-based, human services organization with a local office in St. Petersburg.

A rendering showing the perspective from the north.

The housing community dubbed Innovare Apartments will provide apartment homes with rents restricted to those who earn less than 60% of the area’s median income (AMI). A dozen units will be set aside for those with very low incomes, according to a news release. 

Typically, projects of this size may take a year or so to complete. 

Innovare represents one of the first to break ground in a new round of developments funded by the Penny sales tax, which is a 1%  sales tax paid by everyone who spends money within the county. The taxes are used for capital infrastructure projects.

Several months ago, the county commissioners approved using the taxes to help fund the Innovare project. It supported $1 million in land acquisition costs for Innovare along with additional funding support from the city and the Florida Housing Finance Corporation.  

A rendering of the aerial view from the south.

Other affordable housing developments in the county supported by the taxes include Sixty90 on Central, the Whispering Pines Apartments and Oakhurt Trace.

Over the next decade, an estimated $80 million from the Penny tax will be invested to spur future developments of affordable homes. 

Pinellas County is also joining forces with Forward Pinellas, and the cities of St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Largo and Pinellas Park in a countywide housing compact that will outline a common set of goals and policies to spur more affordable housing. The compact is expected to be ratified by early 2022, according to a news release. 

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