ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — From renting to buying a home, the cost of living in Tampa Bay is growing exponentially. Now, the price of paradise is forcing one major nonprofit housing organization to rethink its future projects.
Habitat for Humanity is proposing several townhome developments to assist more families in achieving the American dream of homeownership.
Ikyama Graham took ownership of her single-family home in Pinellas Park’s Tellor Estates on Monday. It marked the end of hundreds of sweat equity hours, 25 homeownership classes and a commitment towards stability for her and her two kids.
“I finally made it. You know? This is mine and my kids. This is our forever home,” she said while looking at her house.
It’s a special milestone that Habitat for Humanity will help 70 families reach this year. Yet, the organization is facing some unique challenges.
“The future is exciting. The future is also crazy. With the supply chain issues, cost of home materials increasing significantly and the lack of land, it presents a challenge with every home we are trying to develop,” CEO Mike Sutton explained.
On average, it is costing Habitat for Humanity $30,000 more to construct a single-family home now versus pre-pandemic.
Habitat for Humanity hopes townhomes will help them to build more homes for families on less land. Just like their single-family homes, families would take ownership of the townhome and have to invest sweat equity hours to earn their interest-free mortgage.
Habitat for Humanity’s latest multi-family development proposal was just submitted to St. Petersburg leaders this month. They are proposing to build 44 three-story townhomes called Pelican Place near Tangerine Plaza in the southern part of the city. If chosen, the development would be at 18th Avenue South and 21st Street Street. St. Petersburg leaders are looking over several plans for the site that include affordable housing but Habitat’s proposal is the only one that focuses on an ownership model.
If Habitat for Humanity wins the bid, units would be built and sold to those who earn at or below 80% of the Area Median Income. The monthly mortgage payments (including taxes, insurance and HOA fees) for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom unit would average $1,211.
Under Habitat’s proposal, the homeowners are provided a conventional 30-year, 0% interest mortgage. Habitat would eliminate private mortgage insurance (PMI) and require $1,000 in closing costs.
Habitat for Humanity is also working on a proposal to build a 60 townhome development in Largo in the 1700 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue.
They’re also in talks with the city of Clearwater to build 25 townhomes on a 2.5-acre parcel.
“Habitat is definitely moving in a different direction in terms of multi-family, we have to. In order for us to continue the number of families we are targeting to serve on an annual basis, we have to find different ways to do it. We are really excited about these opportunities in Largo, Clearwater and St. Petersburg,” Sutton said.
Habitat for Humanity is helping 100 Pinellas and Pasco families work through the process of becoming homeowners. Beyond that, they’re getting 250 inquiries a month from families interested in their programs. They are constantly helping more families to build their credit and make other changes that would help them become eligible for Habitat for Humanity’s help.
Graham said she feels lucky to be among those who no longer need to worry about renting or where she and her children will live in the future.
“I know it’s going to be a big responsibility for me but I’m ready. I didn’t even think I would become a homeowner because I knew the market was so high and I probably couldn’t afford it or my credit wouldn’t allow me to, so this is amazing,” she said.