Council approves housing repurposing of South St. Pete • St Pete Catalyst
As part of ongoing efforts to alleviate the housing crisis, St. Petersburg is using funds earmarked for other programs to increase its stock of affordable housing and revitalize existing properties.
At Thursday’s meeting, city council members unanimously approved changes to the fiscal year 2022 project plan for the South St. Petersburg Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) to reallocate 4,640,158 $ funding. The money comes from three categories: labour, education and job readiness; business and business development; and communications, assessment and operations programs. It will now significantly increase the housing and neighborhood revitalization budget.
The new allocation will also strengthen the Developer Incentive Program, which includes the Affordable Housing Redevelopment Loan Program and the Affordable Residential Property Improvement Grant. Council member Lisset Hanewicz said the transfer of funding would help offset the prohibitive cost of new construction.
“I mean, the Fairfield apartments alone, those 264 units — that’s a $53 million investment,” Hanewicz said. “And so, I really commend everyone for trying to do everything they can to get these units out in the environment that we find ourselves in.”
Although the reallocation results in a $4.6 million decrease in funding for the above initiatives, the amended budget still includes $5.3 million for most of these programs.
Rick Smith, director of economic development, said several projects that would create or renovate more than 440 units generated demand for the budget amendment. According to briefing documents, the city administration negotiated with developers who expressed the need for additional funding of $5.53 million after the budget was approved.
Following the reallocations, the city will provide $2.28 million to build 264 units for Fairfield Apartments at 3300 Fairfield Ave S. The second-costliest expenditure is $1.42 million to renovate Citrus’ 84 units Grove at 731 15e Saint S.
Of all the projects receiving funding through South St. Pete’s ARC incentive program, Smith said about 77% are for those earning 80% or less of the area’s median income.
Increased incentives for affordable housing projects come at the expense of several other noteworthy initiatives. Smith said the city “is excited to put the brakes on” two new St. Pete Youth Farm leadership positions after no one responded to applications. The $180,000 budgeted for the role will now go into the housing fund.
Smith also relayed that the city would cut two child care programs totaling $550,000 from this year’s budget, but replace them with another source of funding.
“We intend to include all of these programs for next year in the budget,” Smith explained. “We’re not going to cut any programs – it’s just a matter of the spending schedule.”
Council member Brandi Gabbard praised the administration for its hybrid approach to funding new construction and rehabilitation projects. According to its rough estimate, the City will participate in the renovation of 35% of the units benefiting from the reallocated funding.
Gabbard noted that she had been “a bit of a thorn in the side” of the administration on Youth Farm issues, but was still in favor of reallocating those funds — temporarily.
“It’s a program that I’m very protective of, as you know,” Gabbard said. “And I just really wanted to commend the administration for putting a break on the Youth Farm program manager and the farm manager. I think it was the right decision.
She expressed her joy that the city is moving forward with site preparation and improving operations at the Youth Farm and believes that waiting until this is completed to fill the positions is the right course of action. .
Council President Gina Driscoll also expressed her appreciation for how quickly the administration can move money to where it’s needed most. She added that just because the city cuts or eliminates funding for a program doesn’t mean it denies its importance.
“It just means we have to channel things where they make the most sense right now,” Driscoll said. “And so when we look at the need for childcare and the development of these businesses, it’s hard to press the pause button.”