Hillsborough lawmakers and developers broke ground on a new workforce housing community in Mango Thursday morning.
The Preserve at Sabal Park will include 144 apartment homes with rents ranging from about $400 to $900 a month depending on size and household income.
Blue Sky Communities is building the development, which is located at the corner of Williams Road and East Broadway Avenue.
Much of its funding comes from state tax credits, a Hillsborough County housing density bonus and money from private partners.
Commissioner Kimberly Overman, who chairs the county’s Affordable Housing Advisory Board, said the development is meant to serve teachers, retail workers and others who have jobs but may not be able to afford market-rate rents.
"You know this is not a handout,” she said. “These are working families that found themselves in a very difficult economic situation, never had any economics in their life, or found themselves in a medical emergency that destroyed every bit of safety net that they had."
Shawn Wilson, President of Blue Sky Communities, said Preserve at Sabal Park will provide these working families with the best of both worlds when it comes to quality and affordable housing, an option he said they don’t have now.
“Where do they live right now?" he asked the audience. "Well, they are either living in an apartment that costs $1,500 a month or $1,800 a month, and let’s face it, they can’t afford it. Why do they live there? Because they want to live in a nice place for their kids.”
“Or these are people paying $600-$700 a month and they’re living in a substandard unit in an area that may have a lot of crime issues and is not a good environment.”
Half of the units are two-bedroom apartments that are 1,030 sq. ft. A family of four earning a little over $25,500 would pay $494 a month for that unit while a family earning more like $38,000 would pay close to $800.
Amenities include a pool, after-school programs for kids, and employment assistance programs.
Commissioner Overman said the community is also being designed with connectivity in mind.
"Not far from here there is a huge office park full of jobs, you know, not far from here is a grocery store and a school,” she said.
Mango Elementary and Hillsborough Community College are both near to the community, as are stores like Walmart, Publix and Winn Dixie. The development is close to Interstates 75 and 4.
But the area is mostly car-dependent.
Hillsborough’s bus line HART does have service with stops along Martin Luther King Blvd. One is about a ten-minute walk up Williams Road from the complex. But sidewalk space is limited.
Overman, who also serves on the HART board, said she hopes the new residents that will come to the area when the development opens in 2020 will create demand for better transportation.
The 144 units make up the first phase of the project. The non-profit Metropolitan Ministries has partnered with Blue Sky Communities for the second phase.
They expect to break ground on 112 additional units in October designated for families transitioning out of homelessness.
“We will have on-site case management and provide care for these families,” said Tim Marks, President of Metropolitan Ministries.
Also in attendance at Thursday’s ground-breaking ceremony were State Reps. Adam Hattersley and Lawrence McClure.
They joined county leaders and developers in their call for the Florida legislature to protect the Sadowski Trust Fund, which dedicates state money for affordable housing.
Sadowski funds have been swept in recent years for other uses in the state budget.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has recommended fully-funding the Sadowksi Trust Fund this year. The legislative session begins Tuesday, March 5.
WUSF recently explored issues with the Sadowski Trust Fund and other factors that have contributed to Hillsborough County's housing crunch in our series "Growing Unaffordable."