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More and more people are finding themselves living paycheck to paycheck in the greater Tampa Bay region. In some places, rent has doubled. The cost of everyday goods — like gas and groceries — keeps creeping up. All the while, wages lag behind and the affordable housing crisis looms. Amid cost-of-living increases, WUSF is focused on documenting how people are making ends meet.

Developer adds workforce housing in Pinellas Park area by converting hotels to apartments

An apartment building that is white and blue with grass in front and a blue sky behind.
Gabriella Paul
Formerly TownePlace Suites by Marriott, Pelican Lake Apartments is now leasing in Pinellas Park. It is one of two hotels acquired for $20.5 million by Eagle Property Capital to transform into apartment homes.

Half of the former Marriott hotel rooms are available to rent as studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments. Another 88 units are expected to become available by the end of the year.

An investment firm is taking a different approach to providing more housing options for the workforce in the Pinellas Park area.

The firm purchased two hotels off Ulmerton Road and converted them into multifamily apartments. Pelican Lake Apartments, 13200 49th St. N, will welcome its first tenants on Aug. 1.

Half of the former Marriott hotel rooms are now available to rent as studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments. A studio is 360 square feet and $1,265 a month. A 590 square-foot two-bedroom apartment is $1,600 a month. Another 88 units are expected to become available by the end of the year.

The hotel-conversion project is a first for investment firm Eagle Property Capital and Vidalta Property Management, affiliate companies that also own and manage Tampa’s Captiva Club and St. Petersburg’s Gateway on 4th.

“We saw an opportunity during the pandemic of hotels shutting down because they didn't have enough tourism,” said Humberto Cubillos, the firm’s senior vice president of assets.

The idea was to acquire quality assets in prime locations while avoiding the cost of building an apartment complex from the ground up. The firm used the opportunity to expand its footprint in a lucrative market, Cubillos said.

In 2022, Tampa Bay is projected to be one of the top performing real estate markets. That impacts investors and renters differently.

Certain market factors like inflation and supply chain issues are driving up construction costs and making it harder to develop affordable multifamily rentals, Cubillos said.

“To build today, not only do you have all the challenges of zoning and entitlement, but you have all the volatility on prices and certainty on even getting your supplies delivered,” he said.

Through a partnership with the City of Pinellas Park, the firm’s hotel-conversion project was designed to circumvent extra costs and provide a more affordable option to renters.

"Rents will be significantly below any new ground development in this submarket, making our rents competitive and achievable for workforce housing," Cubillos wrote in an email.

The apartments are cheaper than some other options, but might not be considered affordable in the Pinellas Park area.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines cost-burdenedindividuals, or families, as those who pay more than 30 percent of their income toward housing.

On average, individuals earn about $2,400 a month and families earn about $4,000 a month in Pinellas Park, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

For renters to afford housing without being considered rent-burdened, a unit in Pinellas Park should cost around $700 for an individual and $1,200 for a family.

However, Cubillos said his company’s research shows that within a one-mile radius of the new complex, the average household earns about $5,000 a month. As required, the complex plans to reserve eight studios for affordable housing, with rent that will be set by thePinellas County Housing Authority.

In July, the median rental cost for a studio or one-bedroom in Pinellas Park was between $1,100 and $1,800, with a two-bedroom averaging $1,700, according to Zillow rentals data.

The apartment complex is holding an open house from 1:30-4:30 p.m. today. Prospective renters can tour the 183-unit complex and attend a ribbon cutting by Pinellas Park Mayor Sandra Bradbury.

Gabriella Paul covers the stories of people living paycheck to paycheck in the greater Tampa Bay region for WUSF. She's also a Report for America corps member. Here’s how you can share your story with her.

I tell stories about living paycheck to paycheck for public radio at WUSF News. I’m also a corps member of Report For America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms.