Sarasotans Tackle Affordable Housing, Homelessness


Exhibiting a heightened sense of social responsibility, the private and government sectors in Sarasota are undertaking various initiatives to address housing affordability and homelessness, Sarasota Bay Real Estate reports. These moves, the full service realty firm notes, should consequently contribute to further enhancing the quality of life in many local communities and eventually result too in adding luster on Sarasota homes for sale.

One of these undertakings was initiated in September 2014 by Sarasota businessman-entrepreneur Harvey Vengroff who purchased the 117-unit Sarasota Airport Hotel for $2.25 million and plans to convert its rooms into affordable studio apartment units. The 73-year old Vengroff, who abandoned his earlier plans to move to Belize, will rent out the apartments to low-income families and sees his project as a viable option to a homeless shelter.

Inexpensive rentals

Sarasotans Tackle Affordable Housing, Homelessness

Vengroff already operates a similar housing model at the 100-unit University Row Apartments just north of his newly purchased Sarasota Airport Hotel. He rents out the University Row units for $575 a month including power and water. Notably, these apartments do not rely on local, state or federal government home affordability programs.

What Vengroff does is work with local charities like the Salvation Army to screen renters who have the best chance of availing of low-cost housing in order to move out of poverty. Vengroff also proposed recently an apartment complex with 800 units to create affordable housing on Fruitville Road, but this will require approval for more density on that location.

Neighborhood benefits

His affordable housing moves not only fits perfectly with local needs for emergency or transitional housing for homeless families. Vengroff’s new initiative at the Sarasota Airport Hotel, for instance, was seen as a boon for businesses and communities along the stretch of the North Trail which has grown to become a popular hangout for the homeless.

Delighted in particular are the residents, realtors and businessmen around the Rosemary District who have been calling the attention of City Commissioners for solutions to the homeless shifting to their area. A positive impact of Vengroff’s program could likewise extend to enhancing marketability of Sarasota homes for sale around the North Trail.

City and county solutions

A Sarasota homeless center had been planned earlier but it was tabled because of city leaders’ concerns on cost and fears that such a facility could encourage more homeless people to troop into the city and disrupt neighborhoods. Nonetheless, county officials are continuing to work with nonprofits, such as the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, to set up smaller support centers for homeless families with children. As encouraging, family housing programs in Sarasota and North Port will open by the end of 2014.

Though not a permanent solution, a Homeward Bound program has also been launched. Under this program, qualified homeless persons are given free one-way bus tickets for them to be reunited with their families out of the Sarasota area.

Realtors lend a hand

Also noteworthy are the efforts of industry groups like the Sarasota Association of Realtors (SAR) which has been actively supporting the TEAM BUILD project of the nonprofit Habitat for Humanity. In March 2014, SAR members completed their association’s third TEAM BUILD home to support the nonprofit’s advocacy of building, sustainable, affordable and decent housing.

Buyers of Habitat homes are qualified and selected based on their needs. The buyer qualifications include the ability to pay back an interest-free home loan and willingness to be a Habitat partner. By this, the buyers should complete hundreds of hours of “sweat equity” and attend a series of basic homebuyer classes, programs which SAR also undertakes for comprehensive market education on Sarasota homes for sale.