ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The price of paradise continues to rise in Tampa Bay with thousands of people finding themselves without a stable place to live. The lack of affordable housing is significantly impacting homeless shelters, which are running out of options to place people when they get back on their feet.
Still, St. Vincent de Paul CARES and Ability Housing Inc. are partnering on a project that could have a big impact on those who need a stable place to live most.
Starting in 2023, crews will begin to transform the parking lot and grassy area off 4th Avenue North near 15th Street North, near St. Vincent de Paul CARES' existing outreach center into 73 affordable apartments. The two organizations recently received a $28 million state grant to make the project happen.
It comes at a crucial time. St. Vincent de Paul CARES CEO Michael Raposa says their existing overnight shelter on Fourth Avenue North is always 100% full.
Also, with housing costs rising, it’s getting harder for Raposa’s organization to find places to send those who complete their programs and are ready to live on their own.
“Many of the units which were available to us to put people have increased out of affordability and that’s going to continue to be a challenge,” he explained.
The units will help those transitioning out of homelessness, as well as homeless veterans and those with disabilities. “This type of low-income housing only charges 30% of their income. So, if they only have $500 a month we would only charge $150 in rent,” Raposa added.
Raposa knows it’s just one of many solutions needed, but he knows it will be a great option for those who critically need help.
“A housing market that has doubled and tripled almost overnight will never go back down to the way it was pre-pandemic and we’re going to have to sort this out,” he said.
Raposa said the land where the new affordable units are being built is also significant. It was once home to a large homeless population and was the site where St. Petersburg Officers allegedly slashed several tents with box cutters back in 2007.
“This vacant land at one point in time was an encampment with a series of tents within the city right on the edge of downtown. The beauty of it is all of these years later we are going to be able to take a piece of land once part of the problem into the solution,” Raposa elaborated.
St. Vincent de Paul CARES said they have housed 2,500 people since the beginning of the pandemic.
Once built, the new units will be for those earning 60% or less of the area median income. Fifty percent of the units would be reserved for those exiting homelessness, including at least 5% specifically for homeless military veterans. At least 15% of the total units would be rented to households that require special support, including those with disabilities or requiring independent living services.