People with disabilities, and those who have experienced homelessness and domestic violence, have a new local housing resource.
Pinellas County officials joined leadership from Boley Centers Friday to celebrate the opening of Evergreen Village in Pinellas Park. The development not only provides 21 income-restricted one, two and three-bedroom apartments for people with specific needs, but it also offers its residents wraparound services through partnerships with local organizations such as CASA (Community Action Stops Abuse).
During the ceremony, Joseph L. Smith, Chairman of Boley Centers, noted the many challenges faced when creating affordable housing and credited local government and community support for the project coming to fruition. He said the ceremony was a celebration of new and longstanding partnerships that can solve daunting community problems.
“A partnership of hope and new opportunities for the families in our community in great need,” added Smith.
He also relayed a mantra from former Boley CEO Gary MacMath, who was instrumental in building the current projects before his retirement in January.
“If affordable housing was easy, then everyone would be doing it.”
County officials supported Evergreen Village, at 6641 62nd Ave. N., with over $1 million in state Apartment Incentive Loans and federal Home Investment Partnerships Program funds, combined with more than $9 million from the Florida Housing Finance Corporation.
Part of that money helped build Butterfly Grove, another 20-unit Boley Centers affordable housing development in St. Petersburg for those with mental health disabilities, and who have experienced prolonged homelessness. The group will host another event Oct. 28 to celebrate that opening.
Five of the 21 units in Evergreen Village are for households making less than 40% of the annual median income (AMI) and 16 at 50%. Of those, 80% are for people with special needs, and 20% are for those who meet the definition of homelessness.
Smith relayed that each step of building such a development presents a new challenge, starting with land acquisition. Boley then must secure competitive grants and funding, and he credited Florida Housing Finance for its help through that process.
He also thanked Pinellas County’s leadership for “strategic and innovative planning.”
“Being able to take the money and ensure that this property serves those in need and people with disabilities,” said Smith. “People that were homeless for 30 years.”
Smith explained that with housing vouchers, people pay about 30% of their income in rent at Evergreen. If they have no income, then theoretically, he said, they will pay nothing.
Commission Chair Charlie Justice relayed he appreciated having clean water, electricity, a warm bed and a roof over his head a little more after Hurricane Ian devastated communities to the south. While Pinellas dodged the brunt of the storm, he said many in the county still go without the safety and comfort having a home provides.
“There are folks in our community that need that right now,” said Justice. “And that’s why we’re so proud of the partnership with Boley and others of you today. And it’s why we continue to do the work that we do.”
County officials supported five completed affordable housing developments this year, said Justice, providing 223 new homes. Another five projects encompassing 755 units were approved or are under construction.
He credited residents for helping neighbors in need by approving a 10-year extension of the Penny for Pinellas tax, with a percentage of the $80 million raised supporting affordable housing efforts. Justice also noted that 83% of voters approved the extension.
“Where else will you find 83% agreement on anything?” he asked. “Let alone a tax increase. But the people of Pinellas recognize that things were important.”
With a diverse county of nearly a million residents and 24 cities with varying needs, Justice said it takes everyone working together to meet challenges. He called it a puzzle with pieces of different sizes, shapes and colors, and said it is only solvable through collaboration.
“We make it work,” said Justice. “And we make it work because of people like you.”
To learn more about local affordable housing programs, visit the website here.