Formerly self-contained, affordable senior living complex opens in Newtown

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Decades ago, a site in one of Sarasota’s oldest African American communities was a segregated dwelling. Now it is a new affordable housing complex for seniors. Sarasota contributed more than $1.3 million to Penny Sales Tax Funds to make this possible.

Tuesday’s opening comes at a time when affordable housing is hard to find.

Established 80 years ago, Orange Avenue Housing was the first housing project for Newtown’s black community.

“For years, Orange Avenue has been in a state of disrepair,” said Valerie Buchand, a Newtown resident and a member of the Sarasota Housing Authority Board.

After desegregation and decades into the future, the units fell into disrepair. The Sarasota Housing Authority and the community came together with a vision for Amaryllis Park Place.

The city contributed $1.3 million in penny sales tax dollars towards the $22 million development.

“It’s amazing to actually be able to build something that you can actually call a home,” said Buchand.

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With 84 units, Amaryllis Park Place is more than a home. It is affordable housing for seniors aged 62 and over, something that has been lacking in the area.

“Rent prices are so high today that I’m so thankful to God that we’re able to build something that’s actually affordable and they don’t have to worry about getting upset,” Buchand said.

Half of the units are reserved for seniors, who earn less than 60% of the area’s median income. The others are subsidized for low-income residents.

Congressman Vern Buchanan was instrumental in securing funding.

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“I think we need to give communities tax incentive money where they can use it with developers and others so they can subsidize with the rents and make it manageable,” he said.

Rent increases nationwide. In Sarasota, Mayor Erik Arroyo said it has become a problem.

“A 45% increase in rents over the past year is not something this community should be proud of,” Mayor Arroyo said.

Amaryllis Park Place is a start. The Sarasota Housing Authority has three more developments in the works and their lists are already filling up.

“Projects like this that are affordable, that have mixed us, that are for seniors in Newtown, that are historic are what we need,” Mayor Arroyo said.

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