Clearwater officially opens new affordable housing community

76 apartments at Garden Trail Apartments
Posted at 6:00 PM, Jan 11, 2017

Inside and out the homes at Garden Trail Apartments in Clearwater look pretty typical. But these apartments, are part of a growing effort to get more affordable housing in Pinellas County. 



"This is first class housing for people that could never afford this in any other vain," said Peter Leach, Southport Financial Services, developer on the project.

It's something Erika Esche and her family know all too well.

"This is a very pricey area, and the places that are affordable, are not exactly conducive to family living," Esche said.

Erika, her husband and two kids were recently forced from their home after a mold outbreak. And luckily, they found Garden Trail right as it was opening.

"It was a blessing," said Esche.

There are 76 apartments at Garden Trial, all two and three bedroom units. To move in, the rent can't exceed 30 percent of your income, and you have to pass an extensive background check. Apartments rent for as little as $444 a month.

"One of the most shocking parts to most folks is when they think of affordable housing, they think section 8 housing, built in the 1960s and 70s. But the new projects built under this program, you cannot tell the difference between this and a conventional project if you tried," said Leach.

The need for affordable housing is obvious. The ribbon was just cut on these apartments Wednesday, and all units are now leased. But the developer already has another project in the works in south Clearwater, which could break ground later this year.

Erika Esche is glad to see the city, county, and local groups, working together to help families find a place to call home.

"We all live together.  We should all help each other out.  It should be like that from the top, all the way down to the bottom," said Esche.

Southpoint says every governmental entity in Pinellas County helped the Garden Trail project come to fruition. Raymond James Financial assisted with financing, as did the county with special bond financing.