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Blue Sky, MetMin partner for new affordable housing complex in Mango

Blue Sky Brandon, a 120-unit affordable apartment complex, filled to capacity shortly after its opening last June. In a new partnership with Metropolitan Ministries, Blue Sky Communities hopes to replicate that success with The Preserve at Sabal Park. [Times files]
Published Apr. 13, 2018

MANGO — The Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative's most recent survey, conducted in 2017, revealed a sound but sad reality: a lot of county residents have no permanent place to call home in Tampa and throughout the county.

The results indicated more than 1,500 people qualify as homeless, and 31 percent of the group consists of at least one adult with a child.

Compelled to make a difference beyond its Tampa base, Metropolitan Ministries is partnering with Blue Sky Communities to create a the Preserve at Sabal Park, a 23-acre affordable housing project at the corner of Williams Road and Broadway Avenue in Mango.

Metropolitan Ministries CEO and president Tim Marks shed light on the community's homelessness problem by noting his nonprofit, known for its comprehensive care programs for the poor and the homeless, offers clients several housing transition programs with the intention of placing 450 families annually in permanent, reasonably priced homes.

Ariel Gibbs, Metropolitan Ministries marketing and communications manager, said in 2017 a total of 414 families took part in the organization's residential programs and approximately 344 had success in locating to permanent homes.

But MetMin wants to do more.

In partnering with Blue Sky, a Tampa-based affordable housing developer, the nonprofit will create a new complex for the homeless. The Preserve will devote 70 percent of its 256-unit apartment complex — with a mix of one-, two-, and three-bedrooms in a gated community containing a pool and a professional management team — to Metropolitan Ministries' clients.

The remaining 30 percent will be available to other low-income individuals whose maximum household income for a family of three is $34,550, and for a family of four is $38,340.

Construction of Phase 1, consisting of 144 units, will begin later this year.

Much of the funding for the project will come from a $21-million state tax credit award granted to Blue Sky, and the Hillsborough County Commission's approval of a housing density bonus for the developer.

"County staff did a great job of guiding us through the density bonus process and we applaud the county commission in making it possible to assist 60 additional hard-working families in Hillsborough County," Blue Sky president Shawn Wilson said in a statement.

In addition, Blue Sky Communities, in tandem with Metropolitan Ministries, recently applied for a tax credit funding of about $23 million in a competitive bid process administered by Florida Housing Finance Corporation.

A decision on that funding will be made on June 15 and if it is in Blue Sky's favor, that money will be used for Phase 2 of the project.

It will contain 112 apartments, according to Wilson, and construction will start in the second quarter of 2019 and be completed within a year's time.

"I feel pretty confident about winning because 70 percent of our project is for people who were formerly homeless," he said. "But if we don't win we'll re-apply in the fall."

Marks said the Blue Sky Communities project fits in well with Metropolitan Ministries' ongoing quest to find new and innovative ways to care for at-risk families.

"We see an expansion of our affordable housing program through a collaborative partnership with Blue Sky as a viable way to economically care for another 112 families who are earning income and need an affordable housing solution," he said.

"That's what Blue Sky Communities is all about — developing partnerships to make these kinds of things happen," Wilson said.

Blue Sky Communities, formed in 2012, established Blue Sky Brandon, a 120-unit affordable housing complex just north of Brandon Boulevard in June of 2017. It was filled to capacity on opening day.

Contact Joyce McKenzie at hillsnews@tampabay.com.

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