Recent News

Manatee Habitat a Key Provider of Affordable Housing

Thanks to Christopher Willie for last Sunday’s editorial “Progress on affordable housing.” Manatee County Habitat for Humanity knows what families are facing. We also know that there are solutions that work.

For 22 years Manatee Habitat has been providing a solution for affordable housing to a segment of working families in our community. It’s a housing model that has provided 125 working families with a long-term solution to their housing needs.

Contrary to what some believe, Manatee Habitat does not give away homes. What Habitat has always done and will continue to do is build and sell sustainable, affordable homes to qualifying home buyers. Home buyers who meet financial guidelines, complete “sweat equity” hours and save an escrow account to pay their insurance and taxes.

For the next two years, Habitat will be building homes in the City of Bradenton, thanks to a Community Development Block Grant from the city to purchase property.

Habitat can’t solve the housing problem, but we can do our part by providing 8-10 additional families with safe, decent, permanent housing. As support from the community through volunteers, donations and corporate partnerships increases, we can do even more.

We look forward to being “at the table” as a partner in developing a spectrum of affordable housing options for all individuals and families seeking to live in Manatee County.

DIANA SHOEMAKER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

BRADENTON

Read more here: http://www.bradenton.com/opinion/letters-to-the-editor/article94115072.html#storylink=cpy

Segregated housing in Manatee: ‘Criminal’ Conditions

Didi Hager has never received a call from someone who has felt discriminated when trying to find housing in Manatee County. Yet the family services manager at Manatee County Habitat for Humanity has seen rental units that are “absolutely deplorable.”

During home visits for Habitat for Humanity, Hager has met with tenants paying upwards of $900 a month for places with no air conditioners, broken refrigerators and mold in the shower.

“In my estimation, it is criminal what these landlords are charging for places that are falling down around them,” she said. “They don’t qualify for a conventional mortgage and they are just exploited by landlords that know they have to have a place to live and can charge whatever they want to charge.”

These units are often segregated in certain parts of the county such as Oneco and Samoset.

“There are sections that are more segregated than others,” she said. “I do think that is a problem.”

As a way to identify barriers to fair housing, county officials are developing a plan for “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” in Manatee. Fair housing means protecting “people from discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability and familial status,” according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“It is going to include achievable tasks that we are going to be able to handle as a county government structure,” said Denise Thomas, the county’s housing and community development coordinator. “We can make an impact and make a difference and that is what we are trying to do.”

Areas along the urban core, both north and south of the Manatee River, are distinctly segregated in Manatee County, according to Bill O’Shea, project manager in the community development division of the county’s neighborhood services department.

“We have segregation of low-income people and housing, and the whole idea is that no matter what income level or race, you should have the same opportunity as anybody that has a higher income,” he said. “You are entitled to that under fair housing.”

Unlike previous fair housing plans that the county developed in 2005 and 2010, Manatee County will be held more accountable by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which requires the plan for the county to receive Community Development Block Grant funding.

Read more: http://www.bradenton.com/news/local/article91321652.html


Read more here: http://www.bradenton.com/news/local/article91321652.html#storylink=cpy

“HUD has taken a different viewpoint on fair housing and they are going to make local government accountable,” Thomas said. “They are going to look for outcomes. We definitely want to have some measurable outcomes.”

Manatee County will be measured annually on whether it is making improvements, according to O’Shea.

“We are going to have action shown every year,” he said. “In this plan, we are going to have to think a little more focused and find things that are within our ability to achieve.”

Seeking resident input

As county officials work on the Fair Housing Plan, which will be submitted to HUD in January, they want to hear from residents about the housing market and barriers that may exist. A Survey Monkey has been created on the county’s website, mymanatee.org, so the public can give feedback until 5 p.m. Aug. 1.

“They are the ones that are experiencing it, and they are bringing that knowledge to surface so we can look at what can be done,” Thomas said. “We need to know what is done currently. Their voice is crucial to this process to identify the right things to identify the right remedies.”

Most of the information-gathering will be informal, but there will be an opportunity for additional public feedback before the plan goes before the county commission for approval.

“That survey is trying to see what the current state of fair housing in Manatee County is by people telling us of their experience of fair housing,” O’Shea said. “This is the first step to figure out how big the problem is. It is a problem everywhere. I think HUD’s goal is to do away with segregation.”

With the heightened accountability and responsibility that will now be required of Manatee County, this is not just another fair housing plan to put on a shelf, Thomas noted.

“It is citizen driven,” she said. “We don’t want to guess on it. We want them to tell us.”

Discrimination in Manatee

Based on feedback received from poeple being served at Turning Points in Bradenton, there seems to be a lot of discrimination taking place, according to Adell Erozer, executive director of the non-profit organization that provides services to Manatee’s homeless. And she points directly at landlords.

“They can pretty much cherry-pick who they want,” Erozer said. “While it might not look like discrimination, they are going to choose that person that will give them the greatest return. They are making a lot of assumptions, and that is where discrimination comes in many times.”

Discrimination is to blame for the county’s housing problems, says Commissioner Charles Smith.

“That is why we have the lack of affordable housing,” he said. “The housing situation in Manatee County has not been to the forefront. Most developments that we are approving, residents can’t afford to move in. Manatee County hasn’t done their fair share to make sure they have quality affordable housing. Affordable housing must be countywide in the unincorporated area.”

The Manatee County Housing Authority works to educate residents about fair housing through periodicals and newsletters, according to Willie Calhoun, the authority’s executive director. Within the next couple weeks, the agency will have a film showing in the office lobby as a tool to educate the public about fair housing.

“I think it is important that we help educate them, so they will know that housing is for everybody for everywhere,” he said. “It is not just in one location. Fair housing should be across the board for everybody. We try to educate the landlord as well as the tenant.”

The lack of affordable housing only exacerbates the homeless problem, Erozer said.

“We are talking about people that need a place to live while they are working,” she said. “I think that as your number of units available has decreased and the number of people competing for the number of units has increased it certainly has gotten worse because of the numbers. It is certainly more difficult for our people that we are trying to help find housing.”

Affordable equals fair

Some of the fair housing barriers can be addressed by building more affordable housing, O’Shea said.

“I think for us our best chance of probably doing something positive and getting more integration throughout the community is taking advantage of new development that is occurring,” he said. “It is occurring at a rapid rate.”

While the county has made some strides on the barriers identified in the 2010 Fair Housing Plan, there is no money allocated toward fair housing despite being mandated to have a plan as recipients of a federal grant.

“It is kind of hard to fund these things and do them at a local level because there is no money attached to them,” O’Shea said. “We identified things that we didn’t really have control over. The local fair housing enforcement would be a money issue.”

More affordable housing should be integrated into newer communities, he added.

“We’ve tried to encourage people to take advantage of our affordable housing program,” he said. “I think we can do a better job.”

Affordability is the most prominent barrier in Manatee County, according to Calhoun.

“Affordable housing is more of an issue right now,” he said. “That is the biggest complaint we get right now from our clientele.”

Through the housing authority’s Housing Choice Voucher rental payment assistance program, they serve 1,250 people in Manatee County but at least 900 are on the waiting list.

“There is not a whole lot of inventory out there,” Calhoun said. “The biggest concern right now is the inventory, availability of units. That is a big issue for existing clients and waiting list clients.”

Until affordable housing is built to help address the issues, there will continue to be issues, Smith said.

“The bottom line is Manatee County has to have action money set aside for affordable housing, and we don’t have that in place,” he said. “We need to have a plan in place. There is no plan to build affordable housing. ... Affordable housing is a public safety issue. Going into 2017, it is going to be the biggest issue.”


Read more here: http://www.bradenton.com/news/local/article91321652.html#storylink=cpy

“HUD has taken a different viewpoint on fair housing and they are going to make local government accountable,” Thomas said. “They are going to look for outcomes. We definitely want to have some measurable outcomes.”

Manatee County will be measured annually on whether it is making improvements, according to O’Shea.

“We are going to have action shown every year,” he said. “In this plan, we are going to have to think a little more focused and find things that are within our ability to achieve.”

Seeking resident input

As county officials work on the Fair Housing Plan, which will be submitted to HUD in January, they want to hear from residents about the housing market and barriers that may exist. A Survey Monkey has been created on the county’s website, mymanatee.org, so the public can give feedback until 5 p.m. Aug. 1.

“They are the ones that are experiencing it, and they are bringing that knowledge to surface so we can look at what can be done,” Thomas said. “We need to know what is done currently. Their voice is crucial to this process to identify the right things to identify the right remedies.”

Most of the information-gathering will be informal, but there will be an opportunity for additional public feedback before the plan goes before the county commission for approval.

“That survey is trying to see what the current state of fair housing in Manatee County is by people telling us of their experience of fair housing,” O’Shea said. “This is the first step to figure out how big the problem is. It is a problem everywhere. I think HUD’s goal is to do away with segregation.”

With the heightened accountability and responsibility that will now be required of Manatee County, this is not just another fair housing plan to put on a shelf, Thomas noted.

“It is citizen driven,” she said. “We don’t want to guess on it. We want them to tell us.”

Discrimination in Manatee

Based on feedback received from poeple being served at Turning Points in Bradenton, there seems to be a lot of discrimination taking place, according to Adell Erozer, executive director of the non-profit organization that provides services to Manatee’s homeless. And she points directly at landlords.

“They can pretty much cherry-pick who they want,” Erozer said. “While it might not look like discrimination, they are going to choose that person that will give them the greatest return. They are making a lot of assumptions, and that is where discrimination comes in many times.”

Discrimination is to blame for the county’s housing problems, says Commissioner Charles Smith.

“That is why we have the lack of affordable housing,” he said. “The housing situation in Manatee County has not been to the forefront. Most developments that we are approving, residents can’t afford to move in. Manatee County hasn’t done their fair share to make sure they have quality affordable housing. Affordable housing must be countywide in the unincorporated area.”

The Manatee County Housing Authority works to educate residents about fair housing through periodicals and newsletters, according to Willie Calhoun, the authority’s executive director. Within the next couple weeks, the agency will have a film showing in the office lobby as a tool to educate the public about fair housing.

“I think it is important that we help educate them, so they will know that housing is for everybody for everywhere,” he said. “It is not just in one location. Fair housing should be across the board for everybody. We try to educate the landlord as well as the tenant.”

The lack of affordable housing only exacerbates the homeless problem, Erozer said.

“We are talking about people that need a place to live while they are working,” she said. “I think that as your number of units available has decreased and the number of people competing for the number of units has increased it certainly has gotten worse because of the numbers. It is certainly more difficult for our people that we are trying to help find housing.”

Affordable equals fair

Some of the fair housing barriers can be addressed by building more affordable housing, O’Shea said.

“I think for us our best chance of probably doing something positive and getting more integration throughout the community is taking advantage of new development that is occurring,” he said. “It is occurring at a rapid rate.”

While the county has made some strides on the barriers identified in the 2010 Fair Housing Plan, there is no money allocated toward fair housing despite being mandated to have a plan as recipients of a federal grant.

“It is kind of hard to fund these things and do them at a local level because there is no money attached to them,” O’Shea said. “We identified things that we didn’t really have control over. The local fair housing enforcement would be a money issue.”

More affordable housing should be integrated into newer communities, he added.

“We’ve tried to encourage people to take advantage of our affordable housing program,” he said. “I think we can do a better job.”

Affordability is the most prominent barrier in Manatee County, according to Calhoun.

“Affordable housing is more of an issue right now,” he said. “That is the biggest complaint we get right now from our clientele.”

Through the housing authority’s Housing Choice Voucher rental payment assistance program, they serve 1,250 people in Manatee County but at least 900 are on the waiting list.

“There is not a whole lot of inventory out there,” Calhoun said. “The biggest concern right now is the inventory, availability of units. That is a big issue for existing clients and waiting list clients.”

Until affordable housing is built to help address the issues, there will continue to be issues, Smith said.

“The bottom line is Manatee County has to have action money set aside for affordable housing, and we don’t have that in place,” he said. “We need to have a plan in place. There is no plan to build affordable housing. ... Affordable housing is a public safety issue. Going into 2017, it is going to be the biggest issue.”

Manatee Habitat Dedicates 125th Home

shambria smithManatee Habitat's 125th Home Dedication took place June 18th, 2016 at 1180 3rd Ave. W., in Palmetto. Shambria Smith and her two daughters Reniya, 5 and Paris, 3, are the proud new homeowners. Shambria has put in over 300 hours of labor with Manatee County Habitat for Humanity.

The dedication was a wonderful representation of the community that comes together to build a Habitat home. In attendance at the dedication were Habitat Board members and volunteers, family and friends of Shambria, Bealls employees who sponsored the home and provided volunteer labor, next door neighbor Mrs. Jefferson, also a recipient of Habitat services, and future Habitat homebuyers.

This home was made possible by Bealls, Inc., which sponsored this project through the Community Contribution Tax Credit Program (CCTCP). This program allows Florida businesses to put their tax dollars to work in their community. Publix Super Markets Charities, Inc., a dedicated partner of Habitat, provided a grant of $35,000 to complete Shambria's new home.

---

Shambria with Joe DesRosier, Director of Central Operations for Bealls, with Shambria at the dedication. Bealls gave us 34 employees who worked 209 hours on Shambria's house.Shambria's Story

Shambria is a single parent and is employed full time by United Cerebral Palsy, where she has worked for the past two years. Shambria has been persistent in pursuing the dream of owning her own home. She came to our organization in 2013, and applied, but didn’t meet all of the requirements. She worked hard to qualify and is now a proud Habitat homeowner. Shambria is the perfect example of "where there is a will, there is a way."

Shambria has attended classes, accumulated her escrow money and completed her hours on the job site. As a matter of fact, if you ever saw her on the job site, you would know that she's not a quitter. She has worked on her home tirelessly; from the inside of the home, to the outside and even on the roof, Shambria was there to do what needed to be done. 

Congratulations, Shambria, Reniya, and Paris!

 

Pictured top: Shambria and daughters Reniya, 5 and Paris, 3. Pictured bottom: Shambria with Joe DesRosier, Director of Central Operations for Bealls, with Shambria at the dedication. Bealls gave us 34 employees who worked 209 hours on Shambria's house.

Volunteer Spotlight: Barbara & Bruce Kopp

Barbara and Bruce Kopp began as volunteers with Manatee Habitat during the construction of the very first home in the Palmetto Habitat community, Village of the Palms. In addition to serving on the Family Services Committee, Barb has been a mentor to new Habitat families who qualify for the homebuyer program. If there is ever a need, Barbara is always there to lend a hand, provide a contact or render sound advice.

Bruce has shared his photography skills taking photos at home dedications and other Habitat events. Bruce and Barbara have attended and helped at each Habitat Home Dedication and volunteer at the annual Habitat Families Christmas Celebration. Didi Hager, Family Services Manager says, "Barb and Bruce are an integral part of the Family Services Committee and I appreciate their dedication and their love of Habitat."

ReStore Spaces Event Recap

michael saunders teamThank you to everyone who attended the first annual Manatee Habitat ReStore Spaces event on May 19th! Close to 200 were in attendance to enjoy the evening at the Hardin ReStore.

Thank you to the five hard-working teams that donated their own time and resources to refurbish and repurpose the items they chose from the Manatee Habitat ReStores. They had approximately two months to work on the items for their rooms outside of the store, and five days to stage their rooms. Teams included:

  • Fawley-Bryant - Winner of Community Choice Award (online voting challenge)
  • MOTS (Manasota Operation Troop Support) Military Moms - Winner of Golden Hammer Award
  • Michael Saunders/Early Learning Coalition (pictured right) - Winner of People’s Choice Award
  • SCFCS (State College of Florida Collegiate School)/Culver’s
  • Junk King

A special thank you to our celebrity judges:

  • Lulu (from 92.1 CTQ)
  • The Honorable Betsy Benac
  • Pat Shemek-Bradenton Herald
  • Chris Brantley-ABC7
  • Judith Williams-Owner of 6 Fifi’s stores

A big thank you to our sponsors of the event:

Title Sponsor - Lowe’s - Don Novak, assistant manager for the Lowe’s store on Cortez in Bradenton, and Manatee Habitat, have developed a wonderful partnership through this event. His store provided all the building materials for the 7 vignettes and the green carpet as attendees walked into the store. Mr. Novak provided all the extension cords and personally wired up the vignettes for electricity the day of the event. If you noticed the huge ReStore Spaces sign as you walked into the store, Lowe’s had the painting commissioned and built the “easel” for it to rest on. Thank you, Lowes of Bradenton!

Other Sponsors:

  • Gold Coast Eagle
  • Primo! Ristorante
  • Culver’s
  • PepsiCo
  • Walmart Neighborhood Market on SR70
  • Pandora at UTC
  • Green Cooling Solutions
  • Allstate
  • Anthony’s Cooling – Heating – Electric
  • Junk King
  • Bradenton Kiwanis
  • Sherri’s Island Images

Thank you to many others who donated silent auction items!

At the conclusion of the event, Diana Shoemaker, Executive Director commented, “Tonight truly was a community event- from the committee planning it, to the teams creating their rooms, our local celebrity judges involved, and most importantly, all the guests who attended. This is a real representation of the importance that community plays in the mission of Manatee Habitat for Humanity impacting families.”

Photos by Sherri's Island Images Photography