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Hillsborough boosts affordable housing options

American Rescue Plan dollars will finance the purchase and renovation of 96 apartments.
Sweetwater Villas is an affordable housing complex in Hillsborough County from Blue Sky Communities. Blue Sky's President and CEO Shawn Wilson said 504 families in its affordable housing complexes include retail, office/professional and health care workers, plus people employed in government and education.
Sweetwater Villas is an affordable housing complex in Hillsborough County from Blue Sky Communities. Blue Sky's President and CEO Shawn Wilson said 504 families in its affordable housing complexes include retail, office/professional and health care workers, plus people employed in government and education.
Published Sep. 8

TAMPA — Hillsborough County commissioners put an emphasis Thursday on building more affordable housing for renters and home buyers.

“Housing has not been our problem. We’re deluged with people building units in one of the fastest-growing places in the nation,” said Commissioner Pat Kemp. “Affordable housing is a problem for us and every place.”

In separate unanimous votes, commissioners agreed to:

  • Provide $16.2 million for the Corporation to Develop Communities of Tampa to buy and renovate a 96-unit apartment complex on E. Busch Boulevard. The apartments will be rented at below-market rates to lower-income families.
  • Purchase 3.67 acres at the intersection of 127th and N. Florida avenues for a future affordable housing project. The county will use its existing affordable housing trust fund to cover the $1.9 million cost. The county estimated the property can accommodate at least 100 housing units. The land had been the home of Faith Lutheran Community Church of Tampa.
  • Back a $200 million financing plan for single-family mortgage bonds from the Hillsborough County Housing Finance Authority. It is expected to aid 1,000 first-time homebuyers and provide annual tax credits of up to $2,000 to match a portion of the mortgage interest paid by the buyers.

“When you add these things up and you start building block on building block and really chipping away at the problem in different areas of the county in different neighborhoods, that’s where you’re really going to see progress,” said Commissioner Harry Cohen. “This is exactly what we need to be doing to keep moving the ball. It’s not going to happen in one fell swoop. It’s going to happen in incremental projects.”

Shawn Wilson, president and CEO of Blue Sky Communities, said the 504 families in its affordable housing complexes include retail, office and health care workers, plus people employed in government and education.

Commission chairperson Kimberly Overman, the board’s most vocal proponent of affordable housing, emphasized that data.

“In all reality, what we’re doing is providing housing for the workforce that lives in Hillsborough County,” she said.

The apartments on E. Busch Boulevard will be available only to people making no more than 80% of the area’s median income. The median household income for Tampa was $55,634 in 2020, according to the U.S. Census.

The apartments, built in 1985, sold in June 2021 to a Brooklyn, N.Y. company for $10.75 million, according to public records.

“This is a means for us to preserve existing properties so that families will not be displaced,” Cheryl Howell, assistant county administrator for equity and community impact, told commissioners.

The acquisition and renovations, expected to be completed in spring 2024, are financed by a share of the county’s allocation from the American Rescue Plan Act.

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