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New Affordable Housing Could Help Homeownership Rates Near USF

University Area Community Development Corporation
The UACDC puts up a Harvest Hope sign whenever they acquire a new property to let residents know that change is coming.

Residents of  Tampa’s University Area will have more options for affordable housing in the coming months.

Dozens of new houses will be rented out for $600 to $700 per month. It's part of the University Area Community Development Corporation’s plan to transform the neighborhood sometimes derided as "Suitcase City," because of it's lack of permanent residents. The hope is that the program will increase home ownership rates.

Sarah Combs, CEO of UACDC, said the non-profit is doing this community development in phases.

“If you just do one project that’s separated, it just gets swallowed up, you don’t really see the change that’s happening in the community,” she said. “If you do affordable housing with a clustered approach, you really start to see the impact that it’s providing the community.”

The program began almost two years ago when the organization started buying up vacant lots and properties around Harvest Hope Park. Combs said the seven acre park will be the heart of the community.

Part of their community development plan is the Safe and Sound project, where the UACDC will provide training to first-time homebuyers and more affordable housing for residents.

Combs said that because of the transient nature of the University Area, the homeownership rate is less than 10 percent.

“Residents will be able to put down roots and make this place their home, their community, and not just a place they stay,” she said.

The Safe and Sound housing project will be a lease-to-own program for single-family homes. The UACDC will work with residents for a year, helping them get their credit score up and teaching them how to be a homeowner. They will eventually get them ready to qualify for a mortgage.

“We’re really trying to make it simple for residents to become homeowners so they have a stake in the community,” Combs said. “It will continue to help us stabilize and reroute the transient nature of the community.”

The houses should be ready for move-in January of 2019.

In addition to the Safe and Sound project, they have 28 other pieces of property and are collaborating with Habitat for Humanity to build 10 houses. One of those homes will be reserved for a veteran.

More information about affordable housing options in the University Area and the waitlist can be found on their website.

Bethany Hanson is a WUSF/USF Zimmerman School digital news reporter for spring 2018.
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