TAMPA — Land prices are hot, including in East Tampa, where a long-struggling, predominantly Black community has endured an affordable housing crisis while simultaneously facing fears of being displaced by gentrification.
With standard residential lots hard to find for under $75,000 in East Tampa, the profit margin for home builders seeking to build affordably is tiny. It’s a big reason why housing for the neighborhood’s poorer residents is scarce.
One small step in securing housing for low-income residents is to develop city-owned lots with private developers.
On Wednesday, Mayor Jane Castor stood in front of a wooded city-owned parcel of more than 7 acres and declared that her goal of providing 10,000 affordable housing units by 2027 was more than halfway done.
About 6,000 units are in the planning or construction phase citywide — or have already been completed, she said.
The wooded acreage is at 5709 N 47th St., a few blocks north of Hillsborough Avenue. City officials say it is hoped the parcel will be bid out early next year, with the aim that a single developer will build up to 160 apartments on the land. Working with the city’s cache of public land is one way to keep construction costs low enough to make affordable housing work for the private sector.
“Fostering more public-private partnerships, that’s the way we’re going to be able to achieve our objectives and our lofty goals,” Castor told reporters at a news conference.
Two developers flanked Castor. LEMA Construction is the first company to use the city’s “bonus density” program to provide additional affordable housing by allowing the developer to put more residential units on a piece of property.
LEMA president Jonathan Stanton said his project in North Tampa was able to build more densely through the zoning provision and provide 24 of the project’s 223 units as affordable.
Another developer, Darrick Fullwood, grew up in East Tampa. The owner of AAA Restoration & Builders, LLC, he said the opportunity to participate in a city program that awards city-owned lots at no cost in exchange for building low-cost housing was a way to give back. Fullwood received three lots with $75,000 in construction assistance for each property.
Fullwood, who moved frequently as a child, said Castor’s staff “really went after minority contractors” to participate. That hasn’t always been the case in Tampa, he said.
People hear all the time about being “cast aside” as investors rush in to neighborhoods like East Tampa and drive up land and housing prices, Fullwood said.
He said Castor has “made it a priority” to help longtime residents stay in their homes.
City Council chairman Orlando Gudes attended the event. Gudes has been a frequent critic of what he sees as the city’s lack of minority outreach. But, he said, Castor’s efforts should be applauded.
“When everybody’s part of the process, we all profit,” Gudes said. “That’s going to make the difference in the communities.”