For more than 20 years, the University Area Community Development Corporation has worked to improve the quality of life in at-risk neighborhoods near the University of South Florida through education, housing, healthcare, recreation, and social services.
Now, the nonprofit University Area CDC is launching an attainable housing program, Sound & Secure Homes, designed to help single mothers in the University Area neighborhood achieve homeownership.
In partnership with former NFL star Vincent Jackson’s firm CTV Capital, the organization is retrofitting modular homes to meet the standards and specifications of site-built homes.
“We have not found anyone who has done this, acquired a modular product and retrofit it to meet the land development code and pass county inspection,” says University Area CDC President and CEO Sarah Combs. “It should be just as strong as a stick-built and be able to retain its value as well.”
Sound & Secure Homes will start with a two-home pilot project. A ribbon-cutting for those homes is scheduled for 9:30 a.m.- 10:30 a.m. on Sept. 12. Combs says the program will follow a lease-to-purchase model with participants selected from the University Area CDC’s STEPS for Success program. For approximately a year, they will take homeownership classes through Solita’s House, a nonprofit that offers personal financial education and counseling. Those classes will cover areas such as budgeting, credit, and home maintenance and upkeep.
“The idea is not everyone is ready for homeownership,” Combs says. “But we don’t want that to stop individuals from acquiring wealth and being able to achieve the American dream of homeownership. So, we structured it to give them up to a year to acquire the home as they go through homeownership classes.”
The first neighborhood chosen for the program will pay less in mortgage than she once did in rent, Combs says.
The homes will be in close proximity to the Harvest Hope Park that the University Area CDC is developing. In a companion effort, the University Area CDC is using money from the TD Charitable Foundation to install 15 more Dreamboxes: mini-libraries shaped like tiny homes that serve as book exchanges within neighborhoods.
Combs says the University Area CDC hired residents to build and stock the Dreamboxes. One will go in front of the Sound & Secure Housing pilot homes. Combs says a survey of residents using those Dreamboxes revealed that some children are using the books to teach their parents how to read and there is a need for more books in Creole and Spanish.
The dreamboxes are part of the placemaking efforts to strengthen neighborhood identity and well-being in the University Area through the creative use of public spaces. Those efforts have also included public art such as the “LOVE” sign near the Harvest Hope property.
For more information go to this link: University Area Community Development Corporation.