Habitat for Humanity teams up with Pinellas County to tackle affordable housing crisis
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Habitat for Humanity Pinellas and West Pasco has teamed up with Pinellas County to address the affordable housing crisis by focusing on the county’s underserved Lealman neighborhood.
"Lealman has been an area that historically has just been neglected. The housing stock has just deteriorated," said Mike Sutton, the president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity Pinellas and West Pasco. "It’s a big rental community and there’s just been increased efforts by the county to really lift this community up."
Sutton said the non-profit recently finished about 14 houses so far this year and more are on the way.
READ: Pinellas County commissioners approve multi-million dollar affordable housing projects
"The only way that you’re going to break the generational poverty that some of these families experience, is by providing them the opportunity to own their own home," said Sutton.
The houses represent the building blocks of new beginnings, and Florida’s new Live Local Act is a step forward.
File: Habitat for Humanity is focusing on the county’s underserved Lealman neighborhood.
"It’s up to the municipalities throughout the state to enact certain things that are going to help to drive up capacity for affordable housing," said Sutton.
Pinellas County is working on it by rolling out its own housing action plan.
MORE: Local Pinellas County leaders create plan to tackle affordable housing together
"The housing compact, it’s a 10-year plan to get all the municipalities basically aligned and working together, streamlining the process and finding ways to make the housing process just easier," Sutton said.
While the process may soon take less time, it’s costing more.
"What we’re seeing at Habitat is an increase of about 40% the cost of house from where it was about pre-pandemic. So, every one of these homes that we build is costly us 40% more than it did pre-pandemic," Sutton said.
File: It's costing Habitat for Humanity more post-pandemic.
Non-profits like Habitat said they are getting creative to meet demand and get families into the spaces they worked for.
"These homes that we built right here in Lealman, the annual tax bill is approximately $6,000 per house and that’s expensive on an annual basis. And in some cases, what a homeowner is paying for taxes is exceeding what they’re monthly principal is," said Sutton. "We hear a lot about the folks that are moving to Florida from out of state, but what we’re not talking a lot about are the working class that are moving out of the state because they can no longer afford to live here."
Habitat for Humanity said Lealman is known as a food desert and lacks retail and reliable transit. So, they say the new houses will help attract more business as well. Habitat plans to build 20 more houses in that community.