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Families get keys to new affordable homes

Posted at 6:58 PM, Apr 18, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-18 18:58:14-04

The Big Bend Habitat for Humanity is handing over the keys to two of its newest homes Tuesday. The completed homes are playing a bigger role in addressing the affordable housing shortage we're seeing in Tallahassee.

The two homes were built with money from the City of Tallahassee's affordable housing trust fund, bringing a total of 17 affordable houses with Big Bend Habitat for Humanity to communities like this one.

"I didn't think I'd ever be a homeowner. I just thought it was for other people," said Luann Winter.

With the average cost of rent in Tallahassee up to $1,500, it's becoming more challenging for people like Luann Winter to have a place to call their own.

According to the Florida Housing Coalition, 36% of Leon County is cost burdened; meaning people are spending more than 30% of their income on housing.

But, the Big Bend Habitat for Humanity is working to help provide more affordable housing options.

They handed the keys over to two new homes off Volusia and Clay street near Frenchtown.

Luann Winter is one of the new homeowners. She and her two kids are speechless after seeing their new house.

"It's just amazing to know that I'm going to have a place to call home and my kids are growing up and going on their own but they're always going to have a place to come home to," said Winter.

To qualify for a home through Habitat, Winter put in 400 volunteer sweat hours, went through financial training and had a gross annual income between $23,030 - $58,500.

Executive Director Antoine Wright said it takes about six months to build a $115,000 home, but with funding from the City's affordable housing trust fund, the new homeowners aren't subjected to that cost.

"To be able to buy a house and put a roof over your family's head for less than 400 bucks a month is an incredible leverage, incredible step-up or hand-up so the housing first is the key to having a stairway out of poverty," said Wright.

The City's Director of Housing and Community Resilience Kimball Thomas said builds like this are contributing to the City's strategic five year affordable housing plan

"Put over millions of dollars into this investment for affordable housing to make sure we continue to add to the more than 3,000 we currently have in stock," said Thomas.

Thomas said that Habitat adds to the many other strategies the City has for increasing the affordable housing stock, especially in the Greater Bond and Frenchtown neighborhoods such as, "infield development plans for housing that we're building also in Tallahassee. We build housing through our community land trust as well and also hotel conversions. We continue to partner with developers to make sure we have multifamily and all type of product types," said Thomas.

Winter is grateful for all the work Habitat and its volunteers put into her new home.

"It's just going from the concrete to the finished product, we've already started off with a good amount of memories and I can't wait to fill it up with a whole lot more," said Winter.

Wright said they currently have five more houses in permitting so they'll be able to start those new projects in the next month or two. Their goal is to complete ten houses this year.