EAST TAMPA — A new housing development will help ease the Hillsborough County's affordable housing crunch while offering residents a shot at homeownership.
When it opens next summer, Gardens at Diana Point will be a community of 24 townhomes for low-to-moderate income families. Leaders from Hillsborough County and Corporation to Develop Communities of Tampa gathered Thursday for a groundbreaking on the three-bedroom units.
Tucked away at the intersection of Diana Street and N 43rd Street, the site is close to bus routes, medical facilities, and stores for grocery shopping. It sits behind Nuccio Park and is adjacent to a retention pond that is undergoing renovations.
When completed, the pond will feature a pier and a walking trail, adding to the community's amenities which include a fitness center, said Ernest Coney, president and chief executive officer of the Corporation to Develop Communities of Tampa.
The venture is a partnership involving Coney's organization, the county, and the Florida Community Loan Fund.
The latter will provide financing when residents are ready to move from renters to homeowners, Coney said.
Residents will rent the townhomes for about two years before moving into the home-buying process.
With home ownership being one of the building blocks to wealth, this latest project falls in line with the corporation's mission to expand economic opportunities in the area, Coney said.
"When we started, we were told to not invest in new construction because we were told that no one wants to live there," he said. "But we've found that people want safe, decent housing in this area."
Coney said the construction of the townhomes could spark other development in the area, leading to a remake of the neighborhood.
"We've been fortunate that many of our projects have been catalysts for other projects," he said. "You can already see the transformation that will take place."
Cheryl Howell, director of Hillsborough County's affordable housing department, said the venture is "a layered investment in the community" with the county helping to secure $3.5 million in state and federal funding toward the project.
"This is an investment in nonprofits," she said. "It's also an investment in the families who are taking on the mortgages."
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