It seems it was just months ago RN was awarded funds to construct seventeen rental homes on Big Pine Key – Florida’s Ground Zero for the 2017 Hurricane Irma landfall in 2017. That disaster recovery effort is growing larger. Florida Housing Finance Corporation and CenterState Bank pledged $3.3M to construct nine units at Seahorse Cottages II and $1.8M to build five scattered site rental homes called The Avenues. This follows our May 2019 $7.5M acquisition of Tradewinds Hammocks in Key Largo.
Longtime Rural Neighborhoods volunteer, Antonia Rios’, recently spoke about her immigrant experience with PBS station WUFT. Rios’ Eden Park home in Immokalee was damaged by Hurricane Irma in 2017 and was among the more than 70 owner-occupied dwellings rehabbed by Rural Neighborhoods with financial assistance from the Community Foundation of Collier County and American Red Cross. We hope this in-depth article and the video below help readers better understand the struggles new citizens endure to build better lives for themselves and their children.
Rural Neighborhoods was one of 11 community organizations to receive a grant from Trinity by-the-Cove Episcopal Church in February. RN will use the generous donation to further its $2.5 million renovation at its Timber Ridge at Sanders Pines apartment complex in Immokalee. Specifically, the funds will cover improvements to the newly created community garden and will help finish a sports court for children. Thank you Trinity by-the-Cove Episcopal Church!
Cannery Row at Redland Crossing, our planned 112-unit senior housing rental community in the Naranja neighborhood north of Homestead, received $3.5M Miami-Dade Documentary Stamp Surtax Program funding in November. This financing — derived from an additional levy on documents that transfer interests in Florida real property — closes the remaining gap in Rural Neighborhood’s $33M, LIHTC-financed project.
Cannery Row’s 7-story, 1- and 2-BR design located on the South Dade TransitWay Corridor is our first Transportation Oriented Development (TOD) and tallest structure to date. The corridor is 20 miles in length and connects numerous municipalities which represent some of the fastest growing communities in Miami Dade County. Site plan approval and building permits are moving forward toward an expected July 2020 groundbreaking.
NeighborWorks America’s Strategic Investment Fund helped support geographic expansion of Rural Neighborhood’s shared-housing model and that seed money is reaping dividends! Casa Amigos – a 96-bed, 28-unit rental community at Esperanza Place in Immokalee recently received a $5.15M commitment from Florida Housing Finance Corporation toward 2020 construction.
Our shared-housing model enables unrelated adults to share rental apartments through individual rather than household leases. Residents enjoy landlord-paid utilities, basic furnishings and service-enriched living at a monthly cost ranging from $225 to $250 per month per person. This is RN’s 4th shared housing venture as we perfect our approach. The latest properties – Casa Juarez and Casa Amigos – encourage employer-assisted living where businesses subsidize rents for segments of their workforce.
Maggie Whitcomb established the Florida Keys Community Land Trust in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Irma by assembling lots throughout Big Pine Key for the rebuilding of what was “ground zero” on September 10th, 2017. Generous local giving helped the land trust break ground on its four-initial, scattered- site Keys Cottages and set aside six additional lots for development.
Rural Neighborhoods and FKCLT have announced Seahorse Cottages at Big Pine Key, a partnership to build twenty-two storm resilient, single-family rental homes built high above storm surge and sea level rise and targeting households at 80% AMI. The $8.64M project received $1.10M in conventional financing from CenterState Bank and was awarded $7.54M in CDBG-DR financing from Florida Housing Finance Corporation.
Rural Neighborhoods’ Eden Park-Esperanza Place Neighborhood Revitalization effort has led to a successful rebuilding approach. Esperanza Place PUD, a 32-acre parcel acquired by RN in 2015 and freshly entitled for new real estate development, serves as a launching pad for new neighborhood projects.
Instead of building out the parcels itself, RN identified neighborhood needs, e.g. new homeownership and domestic violence services, and recruited partners by offering below-market land and improved infrastructure. Enter partners Habitat for Humanity and The Shelter for Abused Women and Children. Each project is underway: the initial 12 of 59 Habitat homes are rising from foundations. Just next door, The Shelter’s 32 beds for domestic violence and human trafficking victims also are taking shape. Together, Esperanza Place is the setting for an improved EP2 neighborhood.
Step one helping 174 households age 55 and older enjoy new affordable housing was successful as Florida Housing Finance Corporation allocated tax credits for Rural Neighborhoods’ Deer Creek Senior Housing in Gainesville and Cannery Row at Redlands Crossing in Naranja. These new, planned rental communities of 72 and 112 units, respectively, are part of RN’s expanded mission to reach beyond agricultural workers and their communities to serve other economically marginalized individuals.
The challenge to bring affordable housing back to the Panama City area after Hurricane Michael devastated communities, triggered the need to find innovative solutions and learn from best practices from others who have endured the same process.
On June 11, HUD led a disaster recovery best practices symposium with approximately 120 attendees from local and state government officials, developers, nonprofits, housing authorities, USDA, FEMA and housing stakeholders; all gathered to hear about the recovery experiences of groups from across Florida and the U.S. The effort was organized in collaboration with the Florida Housing Coalition and with sponsorship provided by Fannie Mae and NeighborWorks America.
Stories of creative approaches to funding, innovative housing models, and partnership strategies were shared through a series of presentations followed by roundtable discussions and a networking reception. Attendees remarked on the excitement generated by the stories they heard and the opportunity to connect with other organizations and had specific requests for additional information and assistance to help move forward with housing recovery in Florida. They also highlighted the need to listen to the community to find out what would improve their quality of life after being displaced by a natural disaster.
Volunteers from Palm Harbor United Methodist Church impacted Rural Neighborhoods’ youth and families in Immokalee. The group, which has been visiting RN’s Sanders Pines complex for more than eight years, led a week-long summer camp for youth. The Sanders Pines youth look forward to their visit each year and re-connecting with the middle and high school volunteers.
The group also painted a recently rehabbed rental unit Rural Neighborhoods owns in Arrowhead Subdivision. Thank you Palm Harbor for all your hard work!