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The largest townhome development in the history of Habitat is underway



The largest townhome development in the history of Habitat is underway

Local leaders marked the groundbreaking of Longlake Preserve on Wednesday, heralding the advent of 54 new affordable homeownership opportunities in Pinellas County.

Representing Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties, this nearly $20 million townhome project stands as the organization’s most extensive multifamily development in its 39-year history. CEO Mike Sutton mentioned to the Catalyst that the prior record was 19 units.

Longlake Preserve is set to emerge from seven acres of previously vacant land at 1756 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. in Largo. Sutton acknowledged that the property remained undeveloped for generations and credited the project’s success to public-private partnerships that played a crucial role in transforming the once-overgrown area into homes.

“We wouldn’t be able to get this project going if we didn’t have the funding to put in the infrastructure,” Sutton said. “The way that the county, the City of Largo and the state have stepped up to support this is just a great reflection of those three governments understanding the need for housing.”

Habitat’s aspiring homeowners fall within the income range of 30% to 80% of the area median income. As per county documents, the upper limit of 80% corresponds to $69,500 for a family of four.

This local affiliate stands as Habitat’s second-most prolific home builder across the nation, accomplishing the construction of 80 new homes in 2023.

However, Sutton highlighted that building entire communities from the ground up poses additional challenges, as single-family home properties usually come equipped with essential utilities.

“The challenge with building a subdivision like this is really also raising the funds to put in all the infrastructure,” Sutton explained. “We’ve spent the past six months just doing work on the property to clear it of invasive trees and brush, preparing it for the infrastructure components.”

The County Commissioners recently allocated $2 million to support the project. Sutton mentioned that approximately half of the state’s $2 million allocation would go towards covering infrastructure costs, and the City of Largo contributed an additional $600,000.

Anticipating the arrival of its first families by late 2024, Longlake Preserve aims to complete all 54 units within 24 to 36 months, according to Sutton’s plans.

Each two-story townhome will boast an approximate area of 1,200 square feet. Eligible buyers who successfully complete over 30 homeownership classes and contribute 350 to 450 sweat equity hours will be entitled to a 0% mortgage.

For the project, Habitat collaborated with St. Petersburg-based G2 Design, a firm that Sutton commended as an early supporter of the affordable housing initiative.

During the groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday, Sutton emphasized that Longlake Preserve marks the first development funded by Penny for Pinellas that focuses on supporting homeownership instead of rental units. Commissioner Charlie Justice characterized the occasion as a milestone rather than the inception of an already extensive process.

Justice said the project represents a life-changing investment for 54 families. Rep. Kim Berfield noted that “all of us, at this time of the year, stop and think about going home … to a place that has significance and true meaning in our life.”

“I think that makes today even more exciting,” Berfield added. “The 54 people’s lives, or the family’s lives we’re going to touch today, is invaluable.”

She acknowledged the creative and innovative efforts of both public and private partners involved in the project. Senator Ed Hooper expressed the fulfillment of ensuring that Habitat received $2 million in state funding this year.

He committed to seeking $3 million in the upcoming legislative session to support more families in achieving the “American Dream.” Sutton mentioned that while the surrounding community actively participates in building single-family homes, creating larger developments requires additional assistance.

“The one thing that is sort of new to us is raising money to put in sewer pipes, the roads, sidewalks and that stuff,” he said. “So, that support from the state and local municipalities is key for us – which is really exciting.”


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