About 18 months ago, Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County and Pinellas County Government leaders began discussing seven Pinellas County owned lots in the Ridgecrest community. The County offered to donate these parcels to Habitat Pinellas for the development of affordable housing.
The Greater Ridgecrest community is a historic African-American neighborhood, with the unfortunate stigma of crime, prostitution and drugs. A few years ago, the County made improvements to the roads, sidewalks and amenities in the community, with Ridgecrest Elementary and the YMCA experiencing flourishing programs.
Mike Sutton, CEO of Habitat Pinellas explains, “We gladly accepted the donation of all seven lots and planned a ‘Paint the Block’ initiative where we partnered with 10+ homeowners in the neighborhood for exterior enhancements. We also began work to accumulate additional lots in the neighborhood. At this time, we’ve completed 10 homes at an investment of $1,845,000; have nine under construction with another six vacant and ready for a family; and we are also pursuing additional vacant lots.”
Before starting construction, Habitat Pinellas spent time getting to know the neighborhood and the organizations vital to its residents including Friends of Ridgecrest, YMCA, and Ridgecrest Elementary.
The Habitat Pinellas leadership team has also met with County Commissioners to gain their support for the Ridgecrest redevelopment efforts.
“Congratulations and thanks to Habitat Pinellas! Despite the obstacles and challenges in the Ridgecrest neighborhood, Habitat Pinellas is committed to providing housing opportunities and has accomplished this”, said Pinellas County Commissioner Karen Seel. “With over $3,500,000 invested by Habitat Pinellas, we are proud of the homes that will be built. Safe and affordable housing - that’s the goal of the Pinellas County Commission. Habitat Pinellas has been the leader in making this happen. We’ll grateful for their leadership.”
On the redevelopment initiative, Pinellas County Commissioner Pat Gerard said, “The County Commission is always pleased to partner with Habitat for Humanity to provide housing opportunities for our hard-working families. The County Commission has shown its strong support of Habitat for Humanity’s mission by providing affordable housing construction loans and with direct action to donate a total of seven lots in the Greater Ridgecrest Area. The new housing and revitalization efforts by Habitat Pinellas are having an important, highly-visible and positive impact in this historic community.”
Looking towards the next six months, Habitat Pinellas has plans to complete the next nine homes. This will result in the total investment to exceed $3,500,000, with another six lots ready to be built on.