A $17 million development project is set to bring new affordable housing units to the City of St. Petersburg.
On Friday, local officials broke ground for the construction of 50 apartments at 850 5th Ave. S, in the city’s innovation district. The housing development — called Innovare — will have units available for application by people who earn less than 60 percent of the area’s median income. A dozen units will be set aside specifically for people with even lower earnings.
The project provides a flicker of good news amid a year of monumental rent spikes across the county, which have triggered protests by local activists. The average cost of a one-bedroom apartment in St. Petersburg is $1,600, according to zumper.com, an online rental finder.
In addition to providing housing, Innovare will connect tenants with social support services and educational opportunities, officials said.
The project is being funded by a partnership between Pinellas County, the City of St. Petersburg and the Florida Housing Finance Corporation, with support from Volunteers of America.
The County’s Penny for Pinellas program — a voter-approved penny sales tax — contributed $1 million in land acquisition costs. Penny for Pinellas has contributed to the development of 884 affordable homes since 2020, and will support around $80 million in affordable housing over the next decade, officials said.
“When the voters approved ... Penny for Pinellas, that was a 10-year commitment for a specific amount of money every year that we’re going to put towards affordable housing in Pinellas County,” Commissioner Charlie Justice said during the ground-breaking on Friday. “This is going to solve a lot of problems for a lot of people.”
But, Justice added, the county has a need for a housing inventory that supports people living at multiple income levels — not just those earning below 60 percent the median wage.
“We don’t want people to have to leave Pinellas County. We want them to stay here, grow up, raise your family, retire,” Justice said. “That’s what we all want to do.”
The development, said Volunteers of America Florida President and CEO Janet Stringfellow, is a step toward making that goal possible for more people.
“The affordable housing crisis is a national crisis. We’re hoping that more development like this can add to the inventory of housing we need as we continue to see salaries not growing at the same pace as the rents,” Stringfellow said. “Projects like this are critical.”