The Gainesville Housing Authority (GHA) and Gainesville Housing Development and Management Corporation (GHDMC) broke ground Wednesday on a new duplex off of SW 61st Street.
Mitchell Realty donated the lot to GHA in 2016, and construction on the duplex is slated to finish in November, providing housing for two low-income elderly, disabled or veteran families.
The new duplex also means GHDMC is two units closer to its goal of 500 units in five years, a benchmark set by GHA a year ago. GHDMC, a non-profit arm of GHA, is ahead of schedule with 164 units provided in the first year.
Pamela Davis, the president of GHDMC, said 500 units seems reachable now.
“We are well on our way, so now that load doesn’t feel so heavy,” Davis said at the ceremony.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put further pressure on the housing market, prompting eviction bans and programs to financially help people stay in their homes.
Davis said 1,400 families are currently on a waiting list and that number would at least double if the list were open to new enrollments.
“Housing is perhaps the No. 1 issue a community has to change its families,” state Rep. Yvonne Hinson, D-Gainesville, said at the ceremony.
Many families make enough money to place them outside GHA’s designated income range. That’s where GHDMC steps in, looking for creative ways to help families with an income 40-80 percent of the median income in the area.
“People down at the lower end of the middle class who think $15 an hour can do it: it can’t,” Hinson said. “We’ve got to offer better housing options.”
Creating 500 housing units in five years forms part of those better housing options, she said, and the GHDMC has built and refurbished spaces to reach that goal. They also offer vouchers, allowing families to afford housing that would otherwise be outside of their budgets.
Families using those vouchers also qualify as part of the 500 units.
“It was a daunting task when we first presented it to them, but they took it on―scared and all,” Angela Tharpe, chair of GHA, said in an interview.
She said once GHDMC reaches the 500 unit goal, it will probably transition to multi-family complexes, instead of the current strategy of building one or two units at a time.
“Because the timeline is still the same whether you build one or whether you build 20,” Tharpe said. “So we’ll probably move towards more multi-family housing.”
She said GHA does more than just brick and mortar housing. It also helps people return to school for better employment opportunities or to create businesses.
“Our goal is: if we can’t help you by finding a home for you, we’re going to help you increase your income so you can afford a better home outside of us,” Tharpe said.
The GHA started in 1966 and celebrated its 55th anniversary on August 1.