DUNEDIN — Twenty low-income families and individuals will have a place to call home when the Dunedin Housing Authority opens the Fairway Gardens housing complex next month.
The development, which is a mix of affordable housing and subsidized public housing, is in Clearwater on N Lady Mary Drive east of downtown. It's the first property that the authority has operated since its last complex was demolished in 2004.
Why is the Dunedin Housing Authority creating affordable housing in Clearwater? The authority says it searched a long time but couldn't find any multi-unit buildings in its price range within the Dunedin city limits. Its jurisdiction includes a 10-mile radius around Dunedin.
Officials say Fairway Gardens meets a need created by a slumping economy and foreclosures. The 20-unit complex's already has 75 applicants.
"I think there's always a need for affordable housing, especially in these current economic times," said Housing Authority spokeswoman Audra Butler.
In 2004, the Housing Authority demolished Highlander Village, a 30-year-old public housing complex, because it couldn't afford to repair the asbestos- and lead paint-laden walls. The residents were issued Section 8 vouchers and were relocated.
Habitat for Humanity bought the vacant land in 2005 and is constructing affordable townhomes there.
The authority used proceeds from that sale, as well as funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, to buy the two 10-unit buildings in Clearwater for $730,000 last October.
Each building contains six 650-square-foot, one-bedroom, one-bath units and four 750-square-foot units with two bedrooms and one bathroom.
Butler said the authority has spent about $120,000 so far upgrading appliances and air conditioning systems, painting and doing other renovations.
Fifteen of the units are designated as public housing, and five are considered affordable housing.
"Staff currently is in the process of reviewing and qualifying applications," Butler said. "We hope to get the first public housing resident into Fairway Gardens in the beginning of May."
Rent for public housing residents will equal about 30 percent of their adjusted monthly income, Butler said.
The five two-bedroom affordable housing units each will rent below market value at $675 a month. Those units are to be leased on a first-come, first-served basis to applicants who meet income limits, with preference given to people who live or work in Dunedin.
Folks who used to live at Highlander Village also are encouraged to apply.
Bob Ironsmith, Dunedin's Community Redevelopment Agency and economic development director, said Fairway Gardens is right on time. A high foreclosure rate, stricter eligibility requirements for financing and high unemployment have caused a dramatic increase in the number of people seeking affordable housing.
However, officials said housing options are in short supply, and waiting lists for several public housing developments in the area are closed or astronomically long.
"There certainly seems to be a pretty strong demand for rentals, so I really think it's going to fit a good niche," Ironsmith said.
In addition to low-income families and seniors on fixed incomes, officials say Mease Dunedin Hospital, a major employer, has noted the need for affordable housing for its service employees.
Keyonna Summers can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 445-4153.