BY MICHAEL LUNDY, St. Petersburg Housing Authority
The redevelopment of the 86-acre Historic Gas Plant site presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to meaningfully address the need for more affordable and workforce housing in St. Petersburg. This is our chance to combat the housing crisis in a significant and lasting way while honoring the history of the Gas Plant neighborhood and creating a marquee mixed-use, mixed-income development that will benefit all of St. Petersburg.
Founded in 1937, the St. Petersburg Housing Authority (SPHA) has served the St. Petersburg community for more than 85 years, and we have a unique understanding of the importance of this generational project. SPHA once owned and operated the Laurel Park and Graham-Rogall public housing communities, formerly located on the Historic Gas Plant Site. We look forward to creating new affordable housing solutions for today and a sustainable presence in the Gas Plant District for the future.
SPHA is mission-driven and our primary strategic goal, set by our Board of Commissioners, is to develop more brick-and-mortar affordable housing stock in the City of St. Petersburg. The redevelopment of the Historic Gas Plant District will substantially move that goal forward.
It will also serve as an opportunity to increase the federally subsidized housing vouchers available to residents in need, including a component for lower-income families.
We are committed to doing our part in creating new pathways for generational change through housing. That’s why another of SPHA’s strategic goals is to promote homeownership, cutting obstacles facing first-time homebuyers so they can begin to build generational wealth.
As an enhancement of our affordable housing program, SPHA’s Homeownership Program helps families with existing housing vouchers buy their first home and receive monthly assistance for homeownership expenses. Our Family Self-Sufficiency program works hand-in-hand with residents to help them achieve their life goals, such as employment, education, home/family stability, financial empowerment, and more.
Our ultimate goal is to cultivate a community that offers a wide range of safe, accessible, and sustainable housing options and to accommodate families at all income levels. Rebuilding the Gas Plant neighborhood provides a unique opportunity to achieve goals at a truly transformational scale.
With a proposal that prioritizes the possible number of affordable and workforce housing units, we applaud the Sugar Hill Community Partners’ concept for redeveloping the Historic Gas Plant District. The Sugar Hill plan aims to deliver over 2,600 affordable workforce units, which equates to 50 percent of our overall residential plan. As the leading affordable housing provider in the City of St. Petersburg, SPHA supports this vision of inclusive and equitable housing.
The future of affordable housing should include high-quality and aesthetically pleasing options seamlessly woven into mixed-use areas, as the Sugar Hill plan intends. With a development plan that is both transformational in scope and achievable in its execution, the Sugar Hill proposal paints the picture of a community with ample opportunity for everyone to work, live, and play – for generations to come.
At SPHA, we believe in creating opportunities for stronger communities and are proud to contribute to this pivotal redevelopment effort.
Michael Lundy is the president and chief executive officer of the St. Petersburg Housing Authority.