Largo, FL – On Thursday, February 13th, 2020, Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties dedicated its 600th safe and affordable home to a local, qualified family. The affiliate also announced the launch of a new website at www.habitatpwp.org, in partnership with Stevie & Fern, and their Waves of Change program.
With the construction of every new home, Habitat Pinellas and West Pasco creates homeownership opportunities for families and individuals with the help of the community volunteers, corporate donors, civic organizations and county officials. The key sponsors of the 600th house, which will become “home” to the Gordon family, were primarily community individuals and family foundations as a result of peer-to-peer fundraising throughout the area.
As part of an ongoing effort to bring affordable homeownership opportunities to the area’s working-class neighborhoods, Habitat Pinellas and West Pasco continues to work with Pinellas County officials and community partners to build homes in the Dansville and Ridgecrest neighborhoods of Largo.
The Greater Ridgecrest community is a historic African-American neighborhood, with the unfortunate stigma of crime, prostitution and drugs. Several years ago, the County made improvements to the roads, sidewalks and amenities in the community, with Ridgecrest Elementary and the YMCA experiencing flourishing programs. In 2017, Pinellas County donated seven lots in Ridgecrest to the local Habitat for Humanity affiliate for the development of affordable housing.
Mike Sutton, president and CEO of the affiliate explains, “At this time, we have constructed 46 new homes in the Ridgecrest and Dansville neighborhoods of Largo. We currently have three homes under construction, with another seven lots ready for future homeowners, with the total investment exceeding $8,000,000. Our development work in this area has been a catalyst for positive change in an otherwise neglected area, and we are proud that our 600th milestone is in the heart of Ridgecrest”.
After years of steady growth, Habitat Pinellas and West Pasco has reach a noteworthy ranking of third largest Habitat affiliate in new home construction out of 1,240 in the United States. This unprecedented rate of development for the organization is expected to continue with the 600th home and 70 new home builds planned for the next fiscal year.
While helping to make the American Dream come true by creating homeownership opportunities through the new homebuyer program, Habitat Pinellas and West Pasco continues to contribute to improvements in the economy of its service area.
Each home built by the affiliate contributes to local employment in skilled trades. The short-term positive economic impact also includes the stabilization of Pinellas and Pasco neighborhoods through the building or rehabilitation of homes. Long-term benefits are even greater. In 2019, Habitat homeowners in Pinellas County paid $858,937.15 in city, county, school board and other property taxes. By transitioning to homeowner status, many of these homeowner partners raise their standard of living and no longer need assistance or other costly services from local or state agencies.
Formed in 1985, the Pinellas County affiliate has established a tradition of continued growth, evident in the build pace that began with the first 100 homes taking 18 years to build, seven years to reach the 200th home in 2010, four years to complete 300 homes in 2014, two years to reach the 400 home, and one year to the 500th milestone in October of 2018. In March of 2019, the Pinellas and West Pasco affiliates merged, extending their service area. In just under a year after the merger, the 600th home will be dedicated to the Gordon family.
Nickiesha Gordon, a certified nursing assistant and mother to three boys, is ready for a place to call “home”. “This program has made me feel like I can accomplish whatever I set my mind to, and that soon I will not struggle so much to pay someone else’s mortgage; I’m going to pay my own.”
Homeownership candidates, like Nickiesha, must demonstrate a need for adequate shelter, the ability to pay back a zero-interest loan and willingness to partner with Habitat to invest 350 to 450 “sweat equity” hours. To change the life of her family, Nickiesha was ready to jump in. by her dedication, she will have also completed 20 homeowner education classes to prepare for her new chapter as a homeowner.
“It’s not only the house that you get out of this program. It’s also the people, experiences, and knowledge you will gain on this journey towards homeownership. Habitat for Humanity is the hope that I always needed. It helped me achieve the one goal that I thought would take me ten to twenty years to accomplish.”
Nickiesha advises others to “never give up hope. There is always a way around every obstacle in life.”
Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County and West Pasco Counties
Since 1985, Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties has served over 780 families and individuals through its new home buyer and home repair programs using locally raised funds. Volunteers and the future homeowners construct the homes, which are sold at no profit and financed with a zero-interest loan. Habitat homeowner candidates earn 30 to 80 percent of area median income. Candidates must demonstrate need for adequate shelter; ability to pay back a zero-interest loan and willingness to partner with Habitat to invest 350 to 450 “sweat equity” hours. Mortgage monies are used to build even more homes, making each donation to Habitat a perpetual legacy to the community. Habitat believes that homeownership contributes to family stability, leading, in turn, to community stability. Additionally, the affiliate raises funds through their two ReStores, home improvement outlets where donated household and building items are sold to the public. For more information about Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties, call (727) 536-4755 or visit www.habitatpwp.org.