USF students present affordable housing proposals

09/18/07 Seán Kinane
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Students from the University of South Florida’s Community Real Estate Development Certificate program presented three projects focusing on affordable housing today at USF’s Channelside campus.

These real estate development projects dealt with transitional housing for disabled veterans, affordable housing for city workers, and the creation of a resource guide to affordable housing developments. Tom Zuniga is the principle instructor of the class.

“We offer classroom training in real estate basics. … We then ask our students to apply what they learn in the classroom to an actual project.”

Zuniga told WMNF what students can learn in the program.

“What we’d like to do through this program is identify community based organizations who have enough entrepreneurial skill, understand the basic[s]… to identify opportunities within their neighborhoods that they could then use to package deals for larger developers to partner with them.”

One of the students in last year’s class was Ron Rotello, who is now with the Westshore Community Development Corp. He described a project he started in that class that might break ground soon.

The students are developers, community activists, municipal employees and others concerned about community real estate development.

Tampa City Council member Tom Scott addressed the class on the importance of projects like these and said that local governments could streamline the process for affordable housing developments in order to bring down the costs to low-income residents.

One group of students created a resource guide for the city of Tampa and Hillsborough County affordable housing programs. A manual and an online guide were created, as student Israel Segarra, from the city of Tampa’s Housing and Community Development Division, explains.

“What it is is a community resource guide, combined collaborative effort between the city and the county to help potential developers …. That want some guidance in how to navigate through the public sector’s resources … We put together a how-to, basically.”

According to the Department of Children and Families, Hillsborough County has more than 9,500 homeless residents. There are an estimated 200,000 homeless veterans in the country and 4 percent are female.

One student group presented its idea to create transitional housing for homeless female military veterans. They found 3.5 acres of land in the Sulfur Springs neighborhood in Tampa and planned how to finance and develop it.

Student John Kynes, who used to be district director for Rep. Jim Davis, explained the proposal.

“The name of our project is called Liberty Manor. It is a proposed demonstration project that would focus on helping homeless women veterans advance toward home ownership. We would work in collaboration with a number of different community partners, most notably the Centre for Women, in helping provide support of services that they may need.”

The third student group presented their plan to build employer-assisted housing for local governments. John SanFelippo is the owner of JG Properties in Lake County and is a student working on this project. It’s called Dream Lake Apartments and is based on land he owns in the small city of Fruitland Park, north of Orlando.

The students plan to ask the city for a below market rate loan to finance the project and they will pass the savings on to city employees who rent the apartments.

“We’re hoping to be breaking ground on it. ... It’s very important to be able to take city staff and make sure that they can afford to live in the city that they work at.”

That was John SanFelippo, one of the students in USF’s Community Real Estate Development Certificate program speaking about his group’s affordable housing project.

To read the student-created resource guide for affordable housing programs find out more about the program, visit

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