The City of St. Petersburg has detailed the projects it plans to work on in the upcoming fiscal year to expand affordable housing, end homelessness and assist people living with HIV/AIDS.
Among the projects are expanded programs to provide down payment and closing costs to help eligible households buy homes, and to provide funding for apartment developers to buy or rehab affordable rental housing.
The projects are included in a draft of the city’s 2021-2026 consolidated plan. The plan is required to receive state and federal funds that can be used for affordable housing.
The draft plan details a host of issues that have made it tough for low- to-moderate income individuals and families to find homes they can afford.
As the population grows, there’s been a surge in market-rate housing development, but the production of affordable housing has not kept up at the same rate. Vacant land on which to build is scarce.
The median sales price of a home increased from $186,450 in December 2015 to $325,000 in October 2020, the draft plan said, citing the Pinellas Realtor Organization. That increase of 43 percent has left the city’s low- to moderate income households with little opportunity to afford to buy a home, and the price hikes are expected to continue.
Fair market rent in the city for a two-bedroom apartment was $959 in 2015. In 2021, the same apartment rented for $1,271. A household would need an income of $48,235 a year to afford that apartment.
Currently, more than 30,000 households spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs, including 17,363 households that spend at least 50 percent of their income on housing. That leaves little money for necessities such as health care, transportation and food.
To address those issues the city has offered up to $40,000 for purchase assistance for a new home in the South St. Petersburg Community Redevelopment Area. It has bought vacant lots through foreclosure and sold them to non-profit developers for $10. The non-profit must build new housing and sell it to an income-eligible buyer within one year. The city also provided up to $10,000 in incentives to the developers.
The city’s goal over the past five years was to help in the construction of 35 new single-family homes. It blew past that goal, with 63 new single-family homes being built, the draft plan said.
The consolidated plan looks ahead, offering strategies and goals to address housing issues over the next five years and detailing specific actions slated for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. They are:
• New construction of affordable homes for 35 households in the South St. Pete Community Redevelopment Area (CRA). The city will provide funding to Habitat for Humanity to buy land for five new homes and provide developer incentives to build 30 affordable homes to be sold to income-eligible first-time homebuyers.
• New construction and rehab of affordable rental housing for 300 households citywide and in the South St. Petersburg CRA. City funds would be used to buy property and prepare sites to be leased to developers.
• Down payments and closing cost assistance to 62 income-eligible households citywide and in the South St. Petersburg CRA so they can buy a home.
• Advice and funding for 61 homeowners who want to make their single-family homes more energy-efficient and upgrade and refresh their exteriors.
• Fair housing education for 25 persons citywide, providing information and support to low and moderate income persons who need help resolving fair housing violations.
• Homebuyer education and counseling citywide for 100 households, helping renters prepare to become homeowners through learning about budgeting and saving.
Other projects include administration of homeless prevention services through partnerships with organizations such as Catholic Charities and CASA, and tenant-based rental assistance through Boley Centers.
The consolidated plan, a voluminous document with 200 pages, was developed after input from dozens of organizations and individuals. The City Council approved a resolution on June 10 to advertise the draft plan, and a public hearing is scheduled for Aug. 5.
The full draft consolidated plan is here, starting on page 38.
Separately, the city’s Affordable Housing Advisory Committee is considering how funding from the American Rescue Plan might be used for housing. St. Petersburg is in line for $45 million from the federal plan, a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. The city plans to hold public workshops in July to get community input on how to spend the money.
Among the ideas the advisory committee is debating are:
• Buying land to build affordable housing
• Subsidizing increased costs of development due to Covid-19 (lumber, labor and other materials)
• Direct assistance to renters and homeowners
• Aid to Covid-impacted nonprofits and small businesses to build affordable housing
• Permanent affordable housing for people displaced by Covid-19’s economic effects.
The committee is scheduled to meet at 3 p.m. Tuesday, June 15 to consider the issue.