Habitat for Humanity purchases land for affordable housing

Manatee County Habitat for Humanity is eying its fourth planned multi-unit affordable housing development on 3 acres of land in Samoset, and will be looking to the community for help.

With a history of building or rehabbing single-unit homes in low-income neighborhoods, the agency has broadened its vision over the years to work on larger developments. The most recent one, Hope Landing in Ellenton, was completed in 2015.

Hopes are high to begin construction on the Samoset property by 2019, but there is much to do.

The three acres at the end of 32nd Avenue East off of Ninth Street East has long been vacant and at one time, was a tomato farm. It has belonged to the Poling family for decades and they wanted the property to be put to good use.

“They approached us about a year ago,” said Roger Arnholt, president of Habitat’s board of directors. “They had a real interest in affordable housing and this was a way to mesh their interest with ours to achieve our shared goal.”

Habitat closed on the property on Monday after completing all of the necessary soil testing.

“I am very happy that our family farm will be used to provide homes for families through Manatee Habitat,” said Caroline Poling Steward, on behalf of herself and brother Delbert Poling.

Habitat is looking to raise $700,000 to make the development happen, including the initial infrastructure. The development will feature a community garden because the area is considered to be a food desert, meaning there is no quality, affordable fresh foods in at least a mile from the site. There is an elementary and high school in the area, which appealed to Habitat. Arnholt said the majority of residents served are families with school-aged children.

Amy Van Delt, resource development manager for Habitat, said the low-income neighborhood also is one of three areas in Manatee County targeted for affordable housing.

Manatee County Habitat for Humanity is one of the few nonprofit agencies that have won national awards for also building green communities and the new Poling Gardens community will be built in the same model.

Though early in the process and with site planning still left to do, Arnholt expects the development to have about 15 single-family homes. Besides filling a crucial gap in the county’s affordable housing needs, Habitat likes the larger developments because they create a sense of shared needs that tend to bring the community together in taking pride in home ownership.

“It creates an entire community of people that come together with a shared commitment to not only themselves, but their children,” Arnholt said. “We love doing the single-family infill projects and we are doing those now in Washington Park and Village of the Arts. But when you can build a community with shared aspects, then it becomes something pretty special.”

Van Delt said the mantra used to be breaking the cycle of poverty, but it’s more about breaking the cycle of multi-generational renting.

“You have generations of families who have never owned a home,” she said.

Habitat will be seeking corporate sponsors and donations and holding fund-raising events to raise the money needed for the development.

A community kickoff event will take place at the 3 Keys Brewing at 2505 Manatee Ave. E. from 4 to 6 p.m. Oct. 30 at 3 Keys Brewing, 2505 Manatee Ave. E. The restaurant will donate 10 percent of the proceeds to Habitat, which will be on site to inform the community about the new development and garner community support.

Check manateehabitat.org as those details emerge or call 941-748-9100 to find out more.