The St. Petersburg City Council unanimously approved funding Thursday for the first two projects under the Penny for Pinellas Affordable Housing Program.
Council Member Brandi Gabbard was absent for the vote.
Council approved $5 million in Penny funds for the Sixty90 mixed-income project at 6090 Central Ave. and $1.95 million for the Bear Creek Commons senior living project at 635 Fourth St. S. Pinellas County voters in 2017 approved a fourth round of Penny for Pinellas funding, a one-cent sales tax collected for capital improvement projects.
Penny for Pinellas has been in place since 1990. But the city and Pinellas County earmarked funds from the new round of funding for affordable housing. The county committed $80 million from the anticipated 2020-2030 Penny for Pinellas funds. The city committed $15 million.
St. Pete set specific income-level goals for properties purchased with Penny funds over the program’s 10-year span. At least half of the units are supposed to be affordable to households with an annual income at or below 60% of the area median income. For a two-person household that’s $35,460, And $43,620 for a four-person household. At least 75% of units are reserved for households at or below 80% of AMI ($47,250 or $59,050, respectively) and at least 90% have to be affordable for those at or below 120% of AMI ($70,920 or $88,560, respectively).
Pat Fling is with Faith and Action for Strength Together, or FAST, a multidenominational action network that promotes social justice. FAST has been working with the city to meet its affordable housing goals. Fling said FAST supported the Bear Creek funds, but not Sixty90.
“The Sixty90 project, because it has so few units for people earning 80% or less of AMI, we are very much against that project,” Fling said.
The Sixty90 development would include 204 units, ranging from one to three bedrooms. Of those, 42 would be for households at or below 80% of AMI and 142 for 120% of AMI. Twenty of the units would be set at market rate. The Bear Creek Commons project would cater more toward the extremely low income, according to Stephanie Lampe, the city’s housing development coordinator. She said Bear Creek would have 85 units, nine of which are for households earning between zero and 30% of AMI and 76 units for at or below 60% of AMI.
However, the 289 units puts the city nine units over its 10-year goal for units in the 120% of AMI range and 60 units under for the 60% of AMI range.
But Rob Gerdes, St. Pete’s neighborhood affairs administrator, said the city’s resolution outlining the affordable housing program made room for projects like Sixty90 that have fewer low-income units.
“I think we were very clear that we wanted to also allow for developments like Sixty90,” he told Council members Thursday. “That was the reason the 90% threshold was put in the resolution. It allowed for 10% of market rate units.”
He said Sixty90 had the full support of the city’s administrative staff and there are more projects coming that could even out the 60% AMI goal. He added that the Penny for Pinellas affordable housing funds have allowed some flexibility and creativity with other projects.
“We’re mixing and matching the different funding sources based on the conditions and the AMIs in the proposed development,” Gerdes said. “We have developers who are dealing with 60% AMI or below developments and we can target the Penny for those uses.”