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Council approves $750,000 to fund, rehab affordable housing units

Mark Parker

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City council unanimously approved $750,000 in funding to CHAF. Chair Gina Driscoll called the development "fantastic." Screengrab.

St. Petersburg took another step towards securing more affordable housing as the city approved financially supporting Contemporary Housing Alternatives of Florida (CHAF) to acquire three properties.

St. Petersburg City Council heard two resolutions Thursday to support CHAF’s acquisition of three properties, each consisting of four mason-block structures for a total of 12 units. The properties are at 1701, 1715 and 1729 Russell St. S., and the sale price is $1,275 million. Additionally, CHAF requires an estimated $300 – $400,000 for the rehabilitation and improvements.

Rent for the apartments is 60% of the Area Median Income (AMI) over a 30-year affordability period. Assistant City Administrator Rob Gerdes led the presentation on the resolutions to the city council, providing $750,000 in funding to CHAF. Gerdes said current property owner Family First Homes Florida is now liquidating its assets across St. Pete, and city officials immediately reached out to both companies to build a partnership.

“And they moved very quickly on this private market transaction to get a closing date on Feb. 14,” said Gerdes. “If Contemporary Housing was not willing to do this, these properties would be sold on the market, and there would be no control over the rent or the households that live there.

“And there would be no guarantee that the residents that live there now would be able to remain there.”

Gerdes said rehab on the properties is crucial to show the potential of Russell Street, and that he wants the new units to lead the neighborhood. He said the apartments – near the Tangerine Mobile Home Park – piqued his interest due to the location. He said there are similar structures on Russell Street, and the area has a history of “deferred maintenance.”

The Russell Street apartments. Screengrab.

Gerdes noted the city owns properties nearby on 18th Street South, where it plans to build affordable townhomes. Tangerine Plaza is also close to the location.

“We really think that Contemporary Housing can be a leader here,” said Gerdes. “And show what can be done with good management for affordable housing on Russell Street.”

City council previously approved a mechanism for the city to borrow from the Economic Stability Fund to fund affordable housing projects. Gerdes asked the council to approve a $750,000 transfer from the Economic Stability Fund to the Affordable Housing Fund for this project.

Once that loan is complete, Gerdes said the city would sign an agreement with Contemporary Housing for a $750,000 grant. The $750,000 would assist with the acquisition and rehab of the properties. Gerdes told the council that CHAF must record a Declaration of Restrictions on the properties requiring rent not to exceed 60% of the AMI – currently $39,900 for a family of three – over 30 years.

The agreement also stipulates that no existing tenants would be displaced. CHAF will complete all necessary repairs, the Code Compliance department will inspect the properties and the Housing & Community Development department can review tenant applications to ensure income compliance.

Founded in 1992, CHAF now manages or owns over 700 housing units in the area. The city has familiarity with the company, recently providing funding for three two-unit residences in the South St. Petersburg CRA. Those properties are rent-restricted to 80% of the AMI over 10 years.

Councilmember Deborah Figgs-Sanders called those duplexes beautiful and said she appreciates CHAF’s efforts to provide truly affordable housing to her district. Council Chair Gina Driscoll said she is happy to see positive developments coming to the area.

“I know they do need some work, but they are actually in a fantastic location,” said Driscoll. “With easy access to transportation … it’s not that far from downtown for folks that work downtown but increasingly can’t afford to live there.

“So, long term, I think this is fantastic.”

City Council unanimously approved both resolutions, with Brandi Gabbard absent.

 

 

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Jeremy

    January 21, 2022at8:23 pm

    Just ask Pinellas County Commissioners and Lealman residents how well Oasis Acres and CHAF worked out with tax payer money and providing affordable housing to people.

  2. Avatar

    Charlie Guy

    January 22, 2022at5:01 am

    THANK YOU!!

  3. Avatar

    Mike

    January 22, 2022at8:37 am

    What a load of bologna. Here is an example of good intentions creating systematically intractable and negative outcomes. would figgs sanders live in that ‘beautiful duplex’? Would she want it in her neighborhood? They’ve condemned these properties to poverty for eternity. The people on Russell st don’t work downtown. Stop pretending you aren’t part of the problem because you are trying things. You have to do the correct things. This is not one of them.

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