1,600 people in Pinellas Co. on wait list for affordable housing

Crews break ground on affordable housing project
Posted at 6:19 PM, May 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-12 17:26:06-04

A big step forward in helping people get into affordable housing in Pinellas County happens Wednesday. Workforce housing complex breaks ground May 10th for the Palms of Pinellas housing unit. 

There are more than 1,600 families in Pinellas County desperately searching for a safe and affordable place to live. It's a problem across Tampa Bay, but construction crews will start construction on a project in Largo this week to help local families.

Everyone has their own way of coping with tough times. Singing is the one thing that kept Mikel Castro and her daughters Jessica and Michele Nycz strong, even through 6 months being homeless.

“I was definitely nervous. It was really hard for us. We weren’t sure when and if we would find a place,” explained Jessica Nycz.

When Castro’s husband lost his job, they could no longer afford their rent, and finding a new place wasn’t easy, even though they qualify for section 8 housing.

“It’s like having a lottery ticket but you can’t cash it,” explained Castro.

Rent prices in Tampa Bay are seeing among the highest price hikes in the country. 

April Lott, with the nonprofit organization Directions For Living, explained, “The rental rates are through the roof.”

Directions for Living helped Castro and her family by proving Homeless Outreach and case management, including advocacy and linkage with stable housing, and by providing rental and utility assistance to the family. 

Palms of Pinellas will be located at 13101 Belcher Road S., in Largo. It will be a 92-unit mixed-income housing development. The buildings will include one-bedroom, two-bedroom, and three-bedroom apartments.

Building Palms of Pinellas is possible thanks to a public-private partnership. The total project cost is $13.8 million. Pinellas County officials say a $938,000 investment from the Affordable Housing Land Assembly Fund, supported by the Penny for Pinellas 1-percent sales tax, made this development possible.

In Pinellas County, 1,600 people are on a waiting list for safe, affordable housing.

Firefighters, police officers and teachers are on that list because they don't make enough to afford Pinellas County’s high rent.

That’s why projects like Palms of Pinellas are so important because, for every one family who finds a place, there are hundreds still looking.

Castro and her girls know they’re among the lucky ones. “I couldn’t be happier,” explained Castro.

They just moved into an apartment in Largo a few weeks ago, and hope other families will have the same opportunity. 

Construction on the Palms of Pinellas should wrap up in the summer of 2018. Families can start reserving a spot by the end of the year by calling the Pinellas County Housing Authority.