County and city officials continue pooling resources to create quality affordable housing, and some residents of the latest success story are expressing their gratitude.
Pinellas County and St. Petersburg officials joined Tampa-based Richman Property Services (RPS) representatives Tuesday for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at The Shores. Located in the South St. Petersburg Community Redevelopment Area (CRA), the development features 51 apartments for those making 60% or less of the area median income (AMI).
Opal Murray is one of those people. After the ceremony, Murray relayed how she considered moving back to Georgia or staying with her daughter until she secured a home at The Shores.
The experience has also changed her opinion of local government, and she said county and city officials have now earned her “stamp of approval.”
“Because at one time, I was like, ‘they suck. They ain’t trying to help nobody,'” Murray said. “But they helped somebody. They helped me, and a lot of other people.
“They definitely helped me – because I love this place.”
Murray and her new neighbors were fortunate. Maritza Riquelmy-Romero, executive vice president for RPS, said The Shores opened its doors Sept. 22, 2022. By the end of December, residents fully occupied its 51 one, two and three-bedroom units.
Murray expressed her reluctance to live in an apartment but credited her daughter for applying on her behalf. She has been in the area for over 40 years and recalled passing the overgrown lot and wondering why local officials seemingly let the land go to waste when so many people struggled to find homes.
“I think they did this just for me,” Murray said with a laugh.
The property at 2605 31st St. S. was critical to the project’s success. County commissioners approved using $750,000 in Penny for Pinellas housing funds to acquire the land, and they subsequently offered a subsidized lease to RPS to ensure permanent affordability.
City officials contributed $567,000 from the South St. Pete CRA to help fund the $12.6 million development. The 60% AMI cap means the units are for a single person earning around $34,500 annually or $49,260 for a household of four.
That annual income is less than $16 an hour, and Mayor Ken Welch said the 51 apartments are attainable for “the folks who actually make our city work.” Those people are now the mayor’s neighbors, as Welch noted he lives across the street in Lakewood Estates.
“The Shores represents what affordable housing really looks like in St. Petersburg and Pinellas County,” Welch said. “It’s a safe, secure place. It’s thoroughly modern.”
He added that attainable homes, neighborhood health and safety are part of his pillars for progress, and the three are intrinsically intertwined.
Welch said that “from CEOs to college students,” people around St. Pete realize that a thriving and vibrant city must promote inclusive progress for all, which includes creating affordable places to live. He also pledged to continue funding innovative solutions and supporting critical partnerships, like the recently signed Advantage Pinellas Housing Compact.
Commission Chair Janet Long relayed that one out of three families in Pinellas struggles to pay rent and spends over 30% of its income on housing. She said county officials would continue using every tool available to support developers that set reasonable prices.
Long explained that buying land for projects ensures “that the rent will stay affordable for the long-term, even if the market changes.”
“Over the next year, compact partners will be finalizing a Housing Action Plan, laying out steps to open the door to more housing choices that are available and attainable to people around the county,” Long said. “We’re proud to partner with our cities, local organizations and developers who care about our community, like Richman Property Services.”
She relayed that county and city partnerships have led to six developments encompassing 227 affordable homes opening to residents over the past year. Local leaders have approved another six projects with 970 units at various construction stages.
While The Shores apartments are now fully leased, Welch pledged similar developments would soon arrive. He said Tuesday was about celebrating just one in a long list of affordable projects enabled by public-private partnerships.
“It’s in my backyard, and I’m excited to have The Shores as a neighbor,” Welch said.