The Rev. Edison Bernavas wandered the verdant land surrounding Saint Francis of Assisi Catholic Church.
Almost 20 open acres stretched before him in the church’s complex in Mango, a community just east of Tampa.
The pastor had spent years visiting older adults in their homes and listening to their fears about affording life in the area. But the idea descended suddenly.
“We have a huge property — why not have something where seniors could be living in decent houses?” Bernavas said in a news release. “Because everyone deserves a safe place to live.”
More affordable housing is coming for Tampa Bay’s seniors.
A 140-unit apartment building is slated to open in Mango and will rent to adults who are 62 or older.
Known as Casa di Francesco, the project was borne out of a partnership between the Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg and Catholic Charities, which provided the land, and Blue Sky Communities, a Tampa-based affordable housing development company.
Fifteen percent of its units will go to older adults earning below 30% of the area median income. The rest will go to seniors making below 60% of this figure.
Currently, wait times for affordable senior housing in Tampa Bay can range anywhere from six months to five years, the Tampa Bay Times previously reported.
“A lot of people are moving to this region, so landlords have the ability to charge a premium on rent,” said Shawn Wilson, president and chief executive officer for the developer. “A lot of the elderly people in this area are getting squeezed out of where they live, and they need to find a new place.”
Construction on the Mango building is in the permitting phase and is expected to be completed by summer 2024. Developers have not yet broken ground on the property.
Wilson said applications to live in the affordable housing complex will open after construction begins and a website launches for the project.
Seniors’ applications will be considered on a first-come, first-served basis, Wilson said.
There will be no religious requirements for living in the four-story building.
“It will bring seniors closer to the church,” Bernavas added. “They won’t have to drive — they can walk there.”
Funding for the apartment comes partially from a $5 million donation from the Florida Housing Finance Corporation, and over $14 million in tax credit equity.
Follow trends affecting the local economy
Subscribe to our free Business by the Bay newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
Blue Sky Communities will borrow money from a national lender as needed, Wilson said.