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Local leaders celebrate homeownership opportunities

Mark Parker

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St. Petersburg City Councilmember Copley Gerdes (front left) and Mayor Ken Welch (front right) tour the Sixteenth Square Townhomes affordable townhome development in January. Photo by Mark Parker.

St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch said Wednesday morning’s ribbon-cutting ceremony was more than a celebration of brick and mortar – it symbolized progress in efforts to provide attainable homeownership opportunities.

Several Namaste Homes and city officials gathered at 1523 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. S. to celebrate the opening of the Sixteenth Square Townhomes. The long-awaited development will provide 11 workforce housing units for residents making less than the area median income (AMI), or $86,900 for a family of four.

South St. Pete Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) funding provided $1.06 million to aid development. Welch said a lack of attainable housing is an ongoing challenge that demands attention, and the city’s partnership with Namaste “reflects our focus and our commitment to addressing this critical need.”

“This kind of collaboration between public and private entities is essential to the development of affordable housing moving forward,” Welch added. “And yes, we are looking for more opportunities …”

The Sixteenth Square Townhomes now offer 11 workforce homeownership opportunities in the South St. Pete Community Redevelopment Area. Photo provided.

A pledge to build on the project’s momentum was an oft-repeated refrain at the ceremony. Namaste initially planned a market-rate rental development after purchasing the property in 2019.

Early discussions between City Administrator Rob Gerdes and Frederic Samson, president of Namaste, led to the first of multiple project changes. City officials agreed to provide $286,000 in CRA funding if the developer sold the townhomes to those earning at or below 120% of the AMI.

However, construction costs soared, and the project’s price tag increased from $2.5 million to $4.08 million. The city council approved allocating an additional $770,000 in July 2023.

Namaste also raised the maximum sales price from $213,00 to $275,000. However, the median home sale price in St. Petersburg is $475,000, and the city received something in return.

Namaste lowered the project’s income limit to 100% of the AMI, nearly $20,000 less than the previous cap. Welch called Samson’s dedication and vision “guiding lights to getting us to this moment through some very difficult times in the development community.”

An extensive public-private partnership overcame several challenges before cutting a ceremonial ribbon Wednesday. Photo by Mark Parker.

The Sixteenth Square Townhomes now provides 11 single-family, three-bedroom, 2.5-bath units encompassing 1,200 square feet. The average cost is $271,000, slightly lower than the allowable maximum.

Samson previously told the Catalyst that Namaste only receives CRA funding as it sells homes to qualified buyers. Applications are now open, and those eligible could also receive up to $60,000 in down payment assistance.

“This is what it’s all about,” Samson told attendees. “Providing a decent and dignified living space for everyone. In a growing and desirable town, that is not an easy task.”

Samson said he founded Namaste with the vision of building a “new world.” He credited city officials and their responsiveness and creativity for helping him accomplish that goal.

Samson noted that many critical contributors to St. Petersburg’s workforce find themselves priced out of the city. While many people discuss addressing the issue, he said the public-private partnership met the challenge “head-on.”

Welch said the project highlights the South St. Pete CRA’s often misunderstood efforts. Councilmember Copley Gerdes, a financial advisor, called its homeownership opportunities a chance to build generational wealth.

“People are going to be able to do that – they’re going to be able to reinvest in themselves at an affordable price,” Gerdes added. “And that continues to be something that the mayor, city council and city staff focus on each and every day.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Hugh Hazeltine

    January 22, 2024at4:40 pm

    If someone were to purchase one of these townhomes this year under this program, could they sell the home in 2025 at market rates?

  2. Avatar

    Hugh Hazeltine

    January 22, 2024at7:53 am

    Can you expand upon “up to $60,000 of down payment assistance”. Wound that be a loan or a grant?

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