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Habitat begins its largest townhome development

Mark Parker

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Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties expects Longlake Preserves to welcome its first families by late 2024. Photos provided.

Pinellas County will soon have 54 new affordable homeownership opportunities as local leaders celebrated Longlake Preserve’s groundbreaking Wednesday morning.

The nearly $20 million townhome project represents Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties’ largest multifamily development in its 39-year history. CEO Mike Sutton told the Catalyst that the previous record was 19 units.

Longlake Preserve will rise from seven acres of vacant land at 1756 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. in Largo. Sutton said the property sat undeveloped for generations and credited the project’s public-private partnerships for helping transform weeds into homes.

“We wouldn’t be able to get this project going if we didn’t have the funding to put in the infrastructure,” Sutton said. “The way that the county, the City of Largo and the state have stepped up to support this is just a great reflection of those three governments understanding the need for housing.”

County Commissioner Charlie Justice speaks at Wednesday’s groundbreaking ceremony. The Penny for Pinellas tax provided $2 million in project funding.

Habitat’s homeownership candidates earn between 30% and 80% of the area median income. According to county documents, the latter percentage equates to $69,500 for a family of four.

The local affiliate is Habitat’s second-most prolific home builder nationwide. It completed 80 new homes in 2023.

However, Sutton noted building entire communities from scratch presents additional challenges. Single-family home properties typically include vital utilities.

“The challenge with building a subdivision like this is really also raising the funds to put in all the infrastructure,” Sutton explained. “We’ve spent the past six months just doing work on the property to clear it of invasive trees and brush, preparing it for the infrastructure components.”

County Commissioners recently dedicated $2 million to the project. Sutton said about half of the state’s $2 million allocation would cover infrastructure costs, and the City of Largo contributed $600,000.

He expects Longlake Preserve to welcome its first families by late 2024. Sutton plans to have all 54 units completed in 24 to 36 months.

Each two-story townhome will encompass around 1,200 square feet. Eligible buyers who complete over 30 homeownership classes and invest 350 to 450 sweat equity hours will receive a 0% interest mortgage.

Habitat partnered with St. Petersburg-based G2 Design on the project. Sutton said the firm was an early supporter of the affordable community.

An overhead sketch of the townhome community, which abuts the American Collegiate Academy preparatory school.

At Wednesday’s groundbreaking ceremony, Sutton said Longlake Preserve is the first Penny for Pinellas-funded development supporting homeownership rather than rental units. Commissioner Charlie Justice called the occasion a milestone rather than the beginning of an already extensive process.

Justice said the project represents a life-changing investment for 54 families. Rep. Kim Berfield noted that “all of us, at this time of the year, stop and think about going home … to a place that has significance and true meaning in our life.”

“I think that makes today even more exciting,” Berfield added. “The 54 people’s lives, or the family’s lives we’re going to touch today, is invaluable.”

She credited the public and private partners for their creative and innovative efforts on the project. Sen. Ed Hooper said there was “nothing more fulfilling” than ensuring Habitat received $2 million in state funding this year.

He pledged to request $3 million in the upcoming legislative session to help more families realize the “American Dream.” Sutton said the surrounding community rallies to help build single-family homes, but creating expansive developments requires additional assistance.

“The one thing that is sort of new to us is raising money to put in sewer pipes, the roads, sidewalks and that stuff,” he said. “So, that support from the state and local municipalities is key for us – which is really exciting.”

 

 

 

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Louise Boose

    December 23, 2023at5:22 pm

    Will this happen in St Petersburg?

  2. Avatar

    Kara Grande

    December 22, 2023at12:33 pm

    https://habitatpwp.org/

    Start there! Good luck.

  3. Avatar

    Kayla Johnson

    December 22, 2023at7:11 am

    How can I apply for this ?

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