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Housing program a record success

The agency assists 39 people in purchasing homes in four months.

Published March 4, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG - Amid an affordable housing crunch, a St. Petersburg agency has set a record in closing deals for first-time home buyers.

Neighborhood Housing Services helped 39 people buy houses between Oct. 1 and Jan. 31, a high-water mark for any four-month period in the organization's 26-year history.

NHS officials are pleased but nonetheless cautious about the "trimester" success.

"We don't want to get overconfident because I think those numbers are likely skewed. ... You always have a higher number of closings in December, for example," said Askia Aquil, NHS executive director.

But the surge still represents a nice start toward the organization's goal of helping at least 500 first-time buyers by 2010.

Toward that end, NHS this week is launching a fundraising drive to muscle up its services.

The campaign, Aquil said, "is critical to our ability to sustain the activity and performance" in the October to January report.

Campaign coordinators, Aquil said, are NHS president emeritus and longtime community activist David McEachern, real estate broker Liz Wallace of Realty Executives, and SunTrust Bank community development manager Marjorie Burdine.

One of the campaigns goals is to develop its workforce housing programs. The four-month report suggested the demand.

"I think the other thing that's most encouraging is when you look at the cross-section of people and the wide range of (occupations). So it means a lot of people out there are looking for housing, and want to see home ownership, rather than renting, as their course," Aquil said.

Thirty-eight of the 39 purchasers are in the work force.

Their employers include city government, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, Raymond James, the University of South Florida and St. Petersburg College, Moffitt Cancer Center, the county bus company, several supermarkets and two hospitals.

One buyer is disabled.

The average household income is $36,075. The average loan amount was $133,055. Purchases included both existing houses and ones newly built.

Board members weren't shy about voicing their pride.

"It's absolutely one of the best social organizations in town, and probably the only one that's really thinking for the community, as far as I can tell," said Jay Sokolovsky, a University of South Florida anthropology professor.

"In what is a tough real estate market, if NHS is getting people into first- time houses, there's something to be learned there," said Karl Nurse, a businessman and veteran neighborhood activist. "It's not easy; 98 percent of the credit goes to the staff slogging through the process."

NHS serves people in St. Petersburg and its surrounding areas. It provides an array of services, specializing in home ownership, and it tutors new buyers in maintaining a home once it is purchased. For information about NHS programs, call (727) 821-6897.

Fast Facts:


By the numbers

13 loans in Midtown area


22 loans in St. Petersburg but outside Midtown

4 loans outside St. Petersburg

31 loans to families with 1, 2 or 3 people

6 loans to families with 4 or 5 people

2 loans to families with 6 or more

17 loans to white families


16 loans to black families


1 loans to Asian families


5 loans to others


$110,243 average loan amount

$36,075 average household income

[Last modified March 3, 2007, 19:52:46]

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