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Habitat lands affordable housing projects in South St. Pete

Mark Parker

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Habitat for Humanity's rendering showing the plans for its Pelican Place townhome community along 18th Avenue South. All renderings: Habitat for Humanity/City of St. Petersburg documents

Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties will soon transform two vacant properties on St. Petersburg’s south side into much-needed affordable housing.

Mayor Ken Welch announced Monday morning that he selected the local Habitat affiliate to develop land on the 2100 and 1800 blocks of 18th Ave. South into over 50 affordable housing units. Unlike most affordable housing projects in the city, Habitat’s development will help residents achieve the dream of homeownership.

Three other development teams sought to acquire the property at 2100 18th Ave. S., across from the vacant and much-maligned Tangerine Plaza, but Habitat’s 30-year, 0% interest homeownership program and mortgages as low as $1,075 per month proved to be a difference-maker for Welch.

“This is a life-changing opportunity for homeownership and wealth-building for residents with the Southside Community Redevelopment Area (CRA),” said Welch in a statement. “The monthly mortgage payment is truly affordable, and Habitat for Humanity is also a trusted organization in the community, who we believe will deliver a quality project.”

Habitat has recently increased its presence in the area, also known as Midtown, opening a resource center on 22nd Street South in April. In partnership with Hancock Whitney Bank, the organizations have focused a $6 million New Markets Tax Credit for redevelopment in the South St. Pete CRA.

In a separate release, Mike Sutton, president and CEO of Habitat, noted what homeownership could bring to traditionally underserved communities.

“We believe affordable homeownership is the best way to benefit the surrounding area and its residents by allowing them to share in the equity creation spurred by planned redevelopment of the area,” said Sutton. “Homeownership is also one of the primary mechanisms in creating intergenerational wealth.”

The development on the 2100 block, which Habitat calls Pelican Place, will provide 44 three-story townhomes with attached garages and driveways. The units will range from 1,000 to 1,300 square feet, with nine two-bedroom units, 26 three-bedroom units and nine four-bedroom units.

All the townhomes are for individuals and households making at or below 80% of the area median income (AMI). In a proposal submitted to the city in March, Habitat stated that the mortgage payment includes taxes, insurance and an HOA fee. The nonprofit also eliminated the need for a down payment and private mortgage insurance, although homeowners will have to pay $1,000 in closing costs.

Habitat for Humanity’s sketch of The Grove community it is proposing to build at the South St. Pete site. 

According to the proposal, there is no risk of the development becoming anything other than a homeownership opportunity.

“Mortgage restriction will not allow subleasing or rental to help maintain the character of the development and prevent sales to investors for market-rate rentals,” wrote Habitat to the city.

The purchase price for the Pelican Place property is $725,000, and Habitat estimates the total development cost at $13.5 million. The city is contributing $750,000 in public funding, and Pinellas County will provide $1.01 million in Penny for Pinellas money, pending approval.

Habitat plans to complete the development in phases, with the first 15 units opening by February 2024. Another 15 should reach the market by October of that year, and construction on the development should conclude by July 2025.

Habitat submitted two separate design plans for the property at 1805 Ave. S., one with 10 units and the other with 12, called The Grove.

The 10-unit design calls for two five-unit buildings with primary frontage on Russel Street. This plan would eliminate frontage on 18th Ave. while creating added green space for residents.

The 12-unit design would consist of four buildings and include frontage on 18th Ave., which aligns with current zoning. All the three-story townhomes will feature bottom-floor garages and utility or storage areas. All units will provide residents with two parking spaces to mitigate on-street parking impacts.

All townhomes at The Grove will feature three bedrooms at 1,704 square feet. As with Pelican Place, the smaller project is for those making less than 80% of the AMI, and units will sell for $225,000.

The city is donating the land for The Grove and providing $640,000 in public funding for the 10-unit proposal or $705,000 if it includes 12 townhomes. Habitat estimates development costs for the project between $2.89 million and $3.4 million, with construction beginning in January 2023 and concluding by December.

According to the city’s release, the proposed affordability period is 10 years, although the administration seeks a longer term through further negotiations with Habitat. Once both parties establish a term sheet, a Development Agreement will go to the city council for approval.

An aerial rendering of Pelican Place. 

Ranked second out of over 1,100 affiliates across the U.S. for its home building proficiency, the nonprofit recently completed construction of its 758th home in the region.

Three other developers submitted proposals for the 2100 block: Green Mills Group of Ft. Lauderdale, Blue Sky Communities of Tampa and Sugar Hill Group/New Urban Development of St. Pete and Miami.

Namaste and PERC “Tiny Homes,” both of St. Pete, submitted proposals for the property on the 1800 block.

Welch selected Habitat for both projects after city staff, the citizens advisory committee and “a private citizen” weighed the strengths and weaknesses of each proposal, according to the city’s release.

 

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