Pinellas partners celebrate groundbreaking for 50 new affordable homes in St. Pete

Innovare, among the first in the new round of housing developments funded by Penny for Pinellas, will provide 50 new homes for residents earning less than 60 percent of the area’s median income.

ST. PETERSBURG — A rainy morning didn’t dampen the enthusiasm among Pinellas County partners for kicking off a new development last Friday that will bring 50 new homes to vulnerable residents in St. Pete.

Innovare, located at 850 5th Ave S, will bring affordability to the city’s Innovation District as one of several new projects supported by the County’s Penny for Pinellas Affordable Housing Program.

The nearly $17 million project is being developed by Volunteers of America of Florida, a faith-based human services organization with a local office in St. Petersburg.

Innovare will provide apartments with rents restricted to those who earn less than 60 percent of the area’s median income, with a dozen units set aside for those with even lower incomes.

Pinellas County Commission Vice-Chair Charlie Justice spoke at the Friday groundbreaking for Innovare alongside elected officials and staff from the City of St. Petersburg, leaders from Volunteers of America, and other business, faith, and community leaders.

The County’s Penny for Pinellas Affordable Housing Program supported $1 million in land acquisition costs for Innovare with additional financial support from the City of St. Petersburg and the Florida Housing Finance Corporation.

“We know in Pinellas County we don’t do anything without partnerships,” Justice said. “We’ve made a commitment for the next decade to being a partner in affordable housing with millions of dollars every year that we’re putting forward.”

Volunteers of America of Florida President and CEO Janet Stringfellow also lauded the collaborative work to get more Pinellas County residents housed.

“We at Volunteers of America of Florida are so grateful to all of our partners for their commitment to helping homeless, and in-need Floridians find a place to call home and heal. As a collaborative, our dedication and commitment is so strong that not even the terrible weather could stop us from breaking ground today,” she said.

St. Petersburg City Council Chair Ed Montanari, St. Petersburg City Councilwoman Deborah Figgs-Sanders, and Imam Askia Muhammad Aquil chair, board of directors Collective Empowerment Group of Tampa Bay Area, Inc.

Innovare represents one of the first to break ground in a new round of developments funded by the voter-approved Penny sales tax, which will support around $80 million over the next decade in housing that’s attainable to everyone.

Since 2020, the Pinellas County Commission has committed $23.4 million toward eight new developments that will set aside 884 units restricted to affordable rents.

“Affordable housing has been a crisis for decades. It’s well known,” said Imam Askia Muhammad Aquil, chair, board of directors Collective Empowerment Group of Tampa Bay Area. “There are a number of efforts nationally, statewide, as well as locally to address it, so the fact that all of these partners were able to come together… this tremendous partnership is what it would take to get this job done.”

The county’s long-term goal is to build a coalition of municipalities, agencies, developers, and other local leaders committed to a shared vision for addressing one of the biggest challenges facing the community today.

In addition to the Penny for Pinellas fund, the county supports housing affordability with other local, state, and federal funds providing rental and homeownership opportunities through partnerships with agencies and developers.

Over the past decade, the county has supported dozens of new affordable housing developments that have added thousands of homes.

To learn more about Pinellas County’s approach to affordable housing, visit Learn more about Volunteers of America of Florida here at

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