Habitat hands over the key to its 800th home

Since August 2021, Brianna Clayton and daughter Paisley, now 5, have been living in a guest bedroom – sharing a bed – at Brianna’s dad’s house.

The awkward arrangement officially changed today as Habitat For Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties officially dedicated its 800th home, in St. Petersburg’s Lealman district – and handed the key to Brianna Clayton.

“Two bedrooms, two bathrooms,” Clayton marveled just before the public ceremony began. “We’re going to officially move in today. Moving trucks are waiting, and we’re ready.”

Brianna Clayton and her daughter Paisley, 5.

As part of the Habitat contract Clayton, who tends bar at Buffalo Wild Wings and is taking college classes, put in around 400 sweat equity hours on the home at 2790 53rd Ave. North, as well as on other local builds. She also took 32 home buyer education classes.

“This is a huge accomplishment, and a good example to set for my daughter,” she said. “So she knows that you can do anything, no matter what life throws at you.”

She receives a zero-percent interest home loan.

“Six years ago today, we were dedicating the 400th home – that puts in perspective how much growth we’ve had. But there’s such a need for affordable housing,” said area Habitat President & CEO Mike Sutton.

“Every family has its own unique story; every family that comes to Habitat is just looking for an opportunity to own their own home. Today gives us the opportunity, as we celebrate this milestone, to just celebrate all that work. And lay the foundation for what’s to come.”

Clayton, he explained, had signed up for the home ownership program just under a year ago. “Once they’re accepted into the program, it’s typically anywhere from nine to 18 months,” he said. “It really depends on the family, and how fast they work through the program.

“We always tell families, it may seem like an eternity while you’re in the program, but the finish line is so well worth it.”

Mike Sutton, president of Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties, with the new homeowners.

Bill DeYoung

Catalyst Senior Writer and Editor Bill DeYoung was a St. Petersburg Times correspondent at the age of 17. He went on to a 30-year career at newspapers in Florida and Georgia. He is the author of "Skyway: The True Story of Tampa Bay's Signature Bridge and the Man Who Brought it Down," "Phil Gernhard Record Man," "I Need to Know: The Lost Music Interviews," "Vintage St. Pete: The Golden Age of Tourism - and More" and "Vintage St. Pete Volume II: Legends, Locations, Lifestyles."

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