South St. Pete needs an affordable housing fund

Corey Givens

Dear Editor:

I’ve knocked on countless doors, made hundreds of phone calls and I have visited dozens of churches. What I’ve consistently been hearing from my neighbors in South St. Pete is that we need more affordable workforce housing.

Rent payments guzzle almost half of our income and leave us with barely enough money to cover utility bills, food and other necessities. The average cost of a home in this area is $175,000, but you have to earn a gross salary of at least $42,000 to be able to afford that.

I’m a product of St. Pete’s public housing; this issue is personal to me. Our lower-income and homeless residents are in need of housing they can afford. I’ll work to ensure that every child who lives in this city has a place they can call home.

I spent last Sunday afternoon speaking with residents in Jamestown Apartments, a low-income housing complex just north of Tropicana Field. The families here are yearning for a shot at the American dream—becoming a homeowner. However, this is all they can afford at the time. Helping folk’s transition into a better way of life should be a primary focus of our local government officials.

A member of the South St. Petersburg CRA Advisory Committee, I believe that one way to create more affordable housing and increase the number of homeowners within South St. Petersburg would be by establishing a fund that would generate $200 million over 15 years to create or preserve 7,000 permanent affordable homes for at-risk residents and low-to moderate income families.

This fund would be based on a proposed revenue bundle that would capitalize on the solidity of our property taxes and the perks that come along with economic booms through a one-time fee on all commercial and residential development. Fees would vary according to overall property square footage.

 When it comes to rebuilding and revitalizing our neighborhoods, we have to begin thinking outside of the box. There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy for dealing with complex issues like creating quality and sustainable housing for all. As a city, it’s time we put our money where our mouth is!

Corey Givens

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