A $6 million tax credit investment from Hancock Whitney Bank will allow Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties to construct 45 additional homes in the next 12 months, half of those homes in the South St. Petersburg Community Revitalization Area (CRA).
Mike Sutton, CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and Pasco Counties, announced Wednesday in a press conference that a New Market Tax Credit (NMTC) owned by Hancock Whitney Bank and invested in Habitat for Humanity would fund the 45 additional homes over the number already planned for the next year. Numerous city leaders attended the press conference to celebrate the news, including Pinellas County Commissioners Charlie Justice and Ken Welch; St. Petersburg City Council Members Brandi Gabbard, Gina Driscoll and member-elect Deborah Figgs-Sanders; as well as Pinellas County School Board Chair Rene Flowers.
The NMTC Program works to attract private capital to low-income communities by allowing individual and corporate investors to receive a tax credit in exchange for equity investment in organizations called Community Development Entities (CDEs). CDEs are corporations or partnerships that serve as intermediaries between financial institutions and low-income communities, providing loans, investments of financial counseling (i.e. Habitat for Humanity’s zero interest mortgages). The tax credit will total 39 percent of the $6 million and will be claimed by Hancock Whitney over a period of seven years.
The impact is without question. “This translates into 45 families in our community that will soon have the opportunity to change their lives forever through home ownership,” Sutton explained. “With an affordable zero interest mortgage, they can break the cycle of poverty that so many families face.”
Sutton laid out the extent of the affordability crisis, explaining that most low incomes families in Pinellas County pay half, or more, of their incomes towards their home; while the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) guidelines state that families should not exceed 30 percent of their incomes on housing.
“Families all across our community are paying too high a price to cover the cost of their home,” Sutton said. “Rents and home ownership costs are skyrocketing while wages are not keeping pace. Far too often, families struggle to make ends meet. Everywhere you look, the stability that homes should bring remains out of reach for far too many families.”
“That is simply unacceptable,” Sutton said. “This is a nonpartisan issue, and we have to take a stand and declare our commitment that no family should have to pay more than half of their paycheck to cover the cost of home.”
Habitat for Humanity’s model allows families to buy their homes with a zero-interest mortgage, after a rigorous application process and hundreds of sweat equity hours in their homes, which could include anything from painting, caulking or laying sod.
Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County celebrated its 500th home in October 2018. Now, with a merger and another year of operations under its belt, Habitat is getting ready to celebrate its 600th. Just in the last year since it opened the St. Petersburg Resource Center on 22nd St. South, Habitat has completed construction of 40 new homes, repaired 40 homes and has 15 homes under construction- all in the CRA alone.
Now, with the help of private investment, the impact will be even greater.