TAMPA, Fla — Protecting affordable housing is top of mind for local leaders, especially as we enter hurricane season. There’s a new, fully-funded program in the Tampa Bay area called Keep Safe Florida.
The program offers property owners of affordable housing a top to bottom checklist to make sure it's prepared ahead of a potential hurricane.
“We have hurricane shutters and that’s what these are,” said Deirdre Crudup, the property manager at Duval Park Apartments, an affordable housing community for disabled veterans in St. Petersburg.
Crudup said they are reviewing their property checklist all the time.
“Of the things you consider, is the base of the building, a lot of times flooding happens, you can find water intrusion into the units,” she said.
She also adds new things to the list if need be.
“I’m always blown away by our property managers, every time I go inside with them, they’re knowledgeable with the property, and rapport with the residents,” said Stewart Beshears, the Assistant Vice President of asset management at Blue Sky Communities. “They’re all A-class, A+ players. But any tools that we can provide to them in addition to that to let them do their jobs even better, that is a huge resource for us.”
Those new tools are part of the new Keep Safe Florida program paid for by Truist Bank.
The Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council teamed up with local governments and the Enterprise Community Partners to offer free resiliency checks to at least 50 affordable housing units in the Tampa Bay area to make sure they’re storm-ready.
“The program and the tools is really top to bottom checklist to evaluate the conditions of the roof all the way down to where is the AC is at and is that at risk of flooding. The windows, the whole building,” said CJ Reynolds, the Resiliency and engagement Director at the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council.
Then they offer up a resiliency plan for not only the property management team but property maintenance as well.
Keep Safe Florida started off as a pilot program in Miami. CJ Reynolds sat on the advisory board and when the program proved to be a huge success, she knew it needed to come to Tampa. Especially since affordable housing is few and far between.
“It’s really, really important for us to protect and strengthen the homes in the apartment buildings that we currently have so that we understand who needs perhaps new roofing,” she said. “Should the electrical equipment be moved in different locations? There’s practical things that can be done that can protect and strengthen affordable housing that’s existing today.”
Beshears said it feels good to have an extra set of eyes evaluating certain risks and mitigating any issues that could impact residents.
“You know what they say about Florida — if you don’t like the weather wait five minutes,” he said. “You never really know what’s gonna happen in the state, but it’s always good to stay ahead of the curve to make sure that we are doing everything we can to keep a safe building.”
The goal ultimately is to make this a permanent program and offer these checks to as many affordable housing properties as needed.