ST. PETERSBURG – With the average new home price in St. Petersburg creeping close to $500,000, the average home buyer is being priced out of the local market, and it’s leading the city to consider incentives for builders to lower come down on what they charge.
St. Pete District 6 city councilman Karl Nurse will on Thursday propose reallocating $10 million of the next round of funding from Pennies for Pinellas to disburse mainly to non-profit developers to help subsidize the cost of new homes.
“I don’t see [anywhere] that the market’s going to build housing under $200,000,” said Nurse. “House prices and house rents are going up at more than 10 percent a year, whereas wages are going up about two or 2.5 percent a year. So, for a very broad spectrum of the community, it’s becoming considerably more difficult to afford a decent house.”
Darlita Beach of St. Petersburg knows this well.
“It was very tough trying to find [a] house,” she said. Beach searched for more than a year before purchasing home in South St. Petersburg that was within her budget. This, despite job security and decent pay at a local accounting firm. “The market right now…is very, very expensive.”
Beach worked with the non-profit Neighborhood Home Solutions to get her through the home-buying process. The group works with house hunters looking for affordable housing and walks them through the educational process of making, what is for many, the largest purchase of their lives. This includes one-on-one counseling as well as credit improvement plans.
Roberta Bell says the tight housing market has meant more people seeking services from her organization. She says classes are packed and the number of enrollees has nearly doubled. “Everybody wants a house, because what’s happening in the area is [people] aren’t able to find rentals and they’re being pushed north. But a lot of people like St. Petersburg and they want to stay here.”
Nurse hopes his proposal will help make that possible. If there is interest among city council, a resolution would need to be passed, and it would be incumbent upon voters to help pass the next round of Pennies for Pinellas in November.
Funding could be available by the beginning of 2020.