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Nonprofits partner to provide housing solutions

Mark Parker



Mike Sutton (second from left), president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties, and Jose Garcia (center), executive director of Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay, at an April ribbon cutting ceremony for the newly rebranded St. Pete Resource Center. Photo by Mark Parker.

Realizing it will take a collaborative and holistic approach to mitigate the housing crisis, Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties and Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay have joined forces to open the St. Pete Resource Center.

The newly rebranded facility, located on 14th Avenue and 22nd Street South in the culturally significant area of St. Petersburg known as the Deuces, combines Habitat’s homebuilding and ownership efforts with Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay’s (RTTB) mission to keep families in their existing homes.

During Tuesday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony for the center, Chris Steinocher, president and CEO of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, said the most pressing issue in St. Pete is ensuring everyone has the opportunity to live and remain in the city. He credited the partnership between the two nonprofits for helping make that a reality.

“St. Pete gets better every day,” said Steinocher. “And we’re getting that way from leadership like this.”

Part of that leadership is Mike Sutton, president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties. Sutton said over the last five years, his organization built nearly 100 homes in the area alone. Rather than renting, he explained that Habitat bought the building that houses the center about four years ago because he felt it was important for the surrounding community to see they were there for the long term.

“We saw more and more families that want to stay in South St. Petersburg,” said Sutton. “We felt like we could help be a catalyst to provide more housing … but also to tell the community, ‘hey, we’re here, and we’re not going anywhere.’”

After opening the facility, Sutton said, people from the immediate area came to the door every day in desperate need of home repairs. As Habitat focuses on constructing new homes rather than repairing existing residences, the idea for a partnership with RTTB was born.

For over 20 years, RTTB has provided thousands of families throughout Tampa Bay with free critical home repairs. According to its website, RTTB has invested $15 million in repairs for over 1,500 homes. However, the organization lacked a presence in St. Petersburg.

Jose Garcia, executive director for RTTB, said Sutton approached him about opening an office across the bay. Garcia relayed that his organization needed space, and just a few months later, they were cutting the ribbon on the St. Pete Resource Center together.

“We are going to make homes safer and healthier,” said Garcia. “Healthier for families with children, safer for our seniors so they can age in place.

“Our goal is to preserve affordable homeownership.”

The two nonprofits are both part of large national organizations, and their partnership will provide a holistic approach to housing solutions.

Following the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Councilmember Brandi Gabbard called the innovative partnership a perfect example of utilizing every tool available to provide affordable housing. While Habitat has built around 500 homes in the last decade – with plans for over 200 more over the next three years – Gabbard noted part of solving the housing puzzle includes keeping existing homeowners in place.

Many residents, especially the city’s elderly and low-income population, simply cannot afford major home repairs. In light of the current housing climate, she said that keeping people in their existing homes is just as important as increasing the supply.

“While it may look a little outside the box, I think this is the perfect marriage to complement those two bookends of homeownership,” said Gabbard.

Historically, Habitat was able to keep its head down and focus on its immediate mission, said Sutton. However, as the world has changed following the pandemic, he said the organization realizes that collaboration is imperative to achieving its goals.

Sutton also noted the synergy that having a nonprofit focused on new home construction in the same building as one focused on rehabbing aging housing stock creates. He also expressed the added benefit resulting from both being part of much larger national organizations. Habitat has 84 U.S. affiliates, while there are 140 Rebuilding Together chapters nationwide.

“There’s just a brand identity there that is going to help kind of propel both organizations to do more work,” said Sutton.






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  1. Avatar

    Twanya McGill-Lewis

    April 28, 2022at5:31 am

    Dreams may still come true. I have been thinking of how I could get my first home, disabled bad credit but working on it and 53 years old. You have landed right in my lap YAY!! Here I come.

  2. Avatar

    Shirley Hayes

    April 27, 2022at6:56 pm

    Some of the Best news I have heard in 2 years. Thank you Habitat and Westcoast.

  3. Avatar


    April 27, 2022at12:10 pm

    perhaps some of the samll quantity, leftover materials from a Habitat site build could go to RTTB towards individul home rapairs?

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