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New University Area Program Makes Housing Attainable Through Lease-To-Purchase

Helga Torres stands in front of the porch of her new modular home, built to be affordable and part of a new lease-to-purchase program
Helga Torres says her new home in the University Area neighborhood is a dream come true. Torres and her seven-year-old son will live in one of two new modular homes, part of the Sound & Secure Housing program. credit: Wayne Garcia/WUSF Public Media

The snip of a ribbon and some laughter and applause were the sounds of the start of home ownership for Helga Torres.

The Tampa single mother of one cut a ribbon last week to open her new home to guests. Hers is one of two homes unveiled as part of the neighborhood’s Sound & Secure Housing program, which allows residents to lease a new home for up to a year before purchasing it.

Home finance classes and other assistance will help the new homeowners, as well.

"I was dreaming for this day for for a long time,” Torres said through tears in her eyes. “I want to have something for my son. One of my priorities was have a house for him."

The two new attainable homesare north of Fowler Avenue and east of Nebraska Avenue in Tampa, in the disadvantaged neighborhood called University Area. They are the work of the University Area Community Development Corp., led by its executive director, Sarah Combs.

“It feels like we're finally doing what we need to be doing in the community,” Combs said at Thursday’s ceremony opening the homes. “And that's making all of our promises come true for residents that live here.”

The work to create the programs, find financing and complete construction took four years. Combs said these two homes are just the start.

“Housing is such an important tool that has to be in place in order for families, especially low-income families, to stabilize and move out of crisis,” Combs said in a news release. “In addition, we will provide these families with key wrap-around social services, to include a financial and housing education component. Not everyone is ready for homeownership, 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 house on E. 122nd Avenue will sell for about $120,000 and features modular construction and a front porch.
The price point for the Sound & Secure Housing Program houses will be about $120,000, after some additional subsidies for low-income residents. The homes were built with modular construction. Credit: Wayne Garcia/WUSF Public Media

Under the Sound & Secure Housing Program, homeowners can lease one of the new houses for up to a year before purchasing. The homes’ price tags will be roughly $120,000 after some subsides, including assistance with down payments. That will result in a mortgage of about $800 per month.

Seed funding for the program came from the TD Bank Charitable Foundation, along with assistance from former Tampa Bay Bucs football player Vincent Jackson's real-estate company CTV Capital.

How many more can the University Area CDC build?

“Well, because it's an innovative solution to housing that no one else has done before, we're still kind of still dotting the i's and crossing the t's,” Combs said. “So we're hopeful to be able to really put it together as a package and be able to scale it.”

Wayne Garcia is working with the WUSF newsroom and its digital media interns for the fall 2019 semester.