CLEARWATER, Fla. — While the number of COVID-19 cases seems to be going down across the state, the pandemic’s impact on lumber isn’t. In fact, the problem is stalling a much need affordable housing project in Clearwater.
The developer, Blue Sky Communities, is now asking the city for $2 million to help get the project started. Amanda Thompson and her staff at the Clearwater Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) are working, right now, to find that money.
“People need a place to live,” said Thompson, the director of the CRA.
According to the Florida Housing Coalition, there’s a shortage of 54,000 rental units in Pinellas County nearly half is needed in Clearwater, where the homeless population continues to grow.
The FHC said the need for housing across the state, and the Tampa Bay area, has been a major issue long before the pandemic. However, the pandemic has made it worse. Clearwater city officials said that’s why they are pushing for new affordable housing, and approved Blue Sky Communities’ plans for a nine-story, 81 unit apartment building on Franklin Street.
Blue Sky received a $17-million tax credit for low-income housing to help pay for the $22-million project. Officials said the project was moving along, but then the pandemic hit, causing a shortage in building supplies and skyrocketing prices for the supplies that are available. According to Blue Sky, that left them with a $4-million gap between what it now costs to complete the project and the funding they already have in place. That’s why they are asking the city for $2 million.
“Our election officials said they want to be supportive of affordable housing, and asked us to please bring some options to consider to help fill that funding gap,” Thompson said.
There are two other affordable housing projects in the works: A 171 unit apartment complex on Washington Avenue, and on Cleveland Street. Both of those projects have not started. Funding might become an issue for those projects as well.
“It’s hard to say what’s going to happen,” Thompson said. “Our job is to stay focus on the end goal, and keeping being creative to find a solution to make these developments happen.”
Blue Sky is hoping to secure funding early next year, and break ground in May.