TAMPA, Florida – The price of paradise is rising day by day. We have all seen and felt the effects of rising housing costs over the past few years, leaving affordable housing out of reach for many working families in the Tampa Bay area.
“Welcome to my new home. Come in,” said Aisha Bingman.
Bingham is delighted to show us his new home in the newly built Uptown Sky apartment building in Tampa’s university district.
“I have five children. So we’re just getting started. We don’t have a lot of furniture, but we’re going to get everything we need,” she said.
With rents rising in Tampa Bay, Bingham has been incredibly lucky to find an affordable place to call home. That’s because her family was one of 3,000 applicants selected to live in one of 61 income-adjusted rental units.
“I feel like this is the space I was supposed to be in,” Bingham said. She told us that she grew up in a typical middle class family right here in Florida. But she faced financial hurdles when she had children, and the lack of affordable housing added resentment to the trauma.
“So after I got in and out of homelessness, I kept saying, ‘That’s not who I am. I don’t know how to get out of this,” Bingham said.
According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a person working on a minimum wage of $11 would have to work 92 hours a week to afford renting a one-room apartment in the Tampa Bay area.
Blue Sky Communities built the new building where Bingham lives. This is an affordable housing developer right here in Florida.
“So what that means is we’re bundling private equity funds with bank dollars and some government funding, and in exchange we’re providing a housing estate that’s accessible to the working class,” said Sean Wilson of Blue Sky Communities.
So far, they have built 12 residential complexes throughout Tampa Bay, with four more on the way in Hillsborough County. While this is no doubt a good thing, it is just a drop in the ocean to meet the demand for affordable housing.
“Since the current affordable housing crisis began a few years ago, a lot of people in our new communities have signed up,” Wilson said.
The University District Community Development Corporation teamed up with Blue Sky Communities to create Uptown Sky. They plan to offer wellness programs for residents, from swimming lessons to yoga classes and financial literacy courses.
As for Bingham, she is just happy that she now has affordable housing that she can be proud of.
“The pool is a great incentive – a reward – for good behaviour. So I talk and shout less because all I can say is, “You’re not going to the pool,” Bingham said.