Workforce Housing versus Luxury Condos
I was recently at the groundbreaking for a 41-story luxury condominium building in the 400 block of Central Avenue. The ceremony was interrupted by 2 protestors shouting “Your Luxury. Our Displacement”. The protest was focused on the lack of workforce housing, increased prices of homes and the increase in rents. However, there was a lot of misinformation being shouted over the megaphone disrupting the release of the new Residences at 400 Central featuring 301 residential condominiums, retail and office space in downtown St. Petersburg.
Firstly, 400 Central has remained an empty block since 2016. No one was displaced for the construction of this new luxury development.
Secondly, the increased sales prices of houses and the rate hike in rent has been caused by a national shortage of housing. New construction came to a stand still in the late 2000’s and, even after a decade, had barely recovered from pre-great recession levels. If you have read our article, “Is now the best time to sell my home in Tampa Bay”, you’ve gotten a little backstory to explain our current housing market.
What is Workforce Housing?
No matter the circumstances that have led us to today’s housing predicament, workforce housing is an essential component of every thriving city. Without our middle-income workers, such as police officers, firefighters, hospitality workers, teachers, city employees, health care professionals, and retail clerks, our cities wouldn’t be as great as they are today. We need to supply housing for our workforce to economically and effectively get to work.
In the economic development world, workforce housing is defined as housing affordable to households earning between 60 and 120 percent of area median income (AMI). According to the pinellascounty.org website, the median income in Pinellas county is $54,400.
It is also important to note that Pinellas county is a peninsula with only 5-6% of the land left for development. Land availability, demand and affordability are major factors impacting the economics of an area. Below are a few proposed and approved developments focused on workforce housing.
St. Petersburg Workforce Housing
Namaste Homes is building two workforce housing complexes. Artistry at Park Station will consist of 30 townhomes featuring one and two-bedroom options. These homes will be located at 5271 75th Ave N in Pinellas Park. Pricing starts at $175,000. The second development is slated for Northwest Corner of 16th Ave. S and Dr. MLK Street South. These 3-bedroom townhomes will start at $235,000. There will be 11 townhomes with approximately 1280 square feet.
Stoneweg US, a St. Petersburg based real estate investment firm recently acquired the Coquina Key Plaza and additional 15-acre tract of land on Lake Maggiore for new development of workforce housing. According to the St. Pete Rising, the parcels could accommodate a few hundred new homes each.
SD St. Pete 454, based out of Naples Florida, has a proposal to build 415 total units in the Edgemoor area, located 54th Ave N and 4th Street. The city approved a $1 million grant for the developer to help facilitate the construction of new workforce housing in the area. Of the 415 units, 125 will be workforce housing.
Sixty90 LLC, has a planned 204-unit development at 6090 Central Ave in St. Petersburg. Of the 204 units, 90% will be for workforce housing.
Greystar Development East, a global development company, is under contract to purchase the 93-acre site on the corner of Gandy Boulevard and 28th Street N. The new development was approved in August 2021 and would allow a density increase with at least 20% of the proposed 500 units being allocated to workforce housing.
Orange Station, on the site of the old St. Petersburg Police Headquarters, received commission approval in October 2020 to construct a new 16-story building on the site. There will be a total of 5 buildings for office and retail space plus 103 residential units with 42 allocated to workforce housing.
Doing the math, that is 717 proposed workforce housing units coming to the St. Pete area. Is it enough? It is a start. There are more development proposals underway. This list was compiled to give insight and a different perspective regarding the new developments in our city.