City, Habitat partnership secures new Southside homes

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer

A lot has changed since the outbreak of coronavirus earlier this year, but some families are still confronted by two constants — homelessness and not finding affordable housing.

For some finding affordable housing has led to homelessness even as they try to cope with the pandemic.  At least two families will have new homes this fall. 

That’s a promise that Tallahassee’s city government and Habitat for Humanity made last Tuesday when it broke ground to begin the construction on Yuma Drive. The ceremony took place with two backhoes as the backdrop.

“This pandemic isn’t going to stop us,” said Antoine Wright, Big Bend Habitat for Humanity executive director.  “We are still committed to affordable housing. If anything it increases the need that our community has for a safe, decent and affordable home to live.”

Big Bend Habitat for Humanity executive director Antoine Wright (center) makes responds to a question during groundbreaking for construction of two homes on the city’s Southside.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine

In addition to the two homes that will be built on the lot where groundbreaking took place, another house will be built on adjacent Eddie Street.  Wright estimated that both two-bedroom, two-bath homes will be completed by Thanksgiving.

The homes will be in an area on the Southside that is coping with poverty. Commissioner Dianne Williams Cox, a Southside resident, touted the build for the improvement it will being to the area.

“We are doing it (fighting poverty) a house at a time,” Williams-Cox said. “We may not wipe it completely out but we’re going to do our best to make sure that people have the opportunity to achieve that American dream of home ownership.”

The families who get the new homes will be selected from a waiting list, Wright said. They have to meet a criteria of having at least a 600 credit score and make a salary equivalent to 30 percent of the cost of the home on a 30-year mortgage.

Additionally, the new home owners will have to help build a Habitat home and provide other community service.

The City’s partnership with Habitat has been going on for a little more than three years. When the three news homes are completed, they will bring the total from the partnership to 11.

The city’s financial commitment to the project is $195,000 from its Affordable Housing Trust Fund. The city also owns the three lots where the houses will be built.

“This commission is ready to move the needle on affordable housing in our community,” said Mayor John Dailey. “It is something that we are very proud of. It’s a holistic approach where we are all rolling up our sleeves and getting involved.”

Commissioner Elaine Bryant said she will be there alongside the builders.

“I’m looking forward to do this,” she said, swinging a hammer.

Commissioner Curtis Richardson praised the partnership for giving someone a home to raise a family

“There is nothing more exciting than when a family is handed the keys to their own home and the children go in. they’ve got their own bedrooms and they’re excited about their new home and where they live,” Richardson said.