Economic Development News & Insight


Buying a house? How about the whole neighbourhood instead

/ March 9, 2015

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Buying a house? How about the whole neighbourhood instead

When searching for real estate be it for living or investing, what is it that you look for specifically? Abandoned areas? Boarded-up house? None of the above? Me either.

However, these grim boarded-up neighbourhoods usually result in much lower real estate prices, a plus for Frank Wells, a local Floridian determined to turn around a neighbourhood in St Petersburg, Florida. Wells’ neighbourhood re-make project Venture House has a plan to buy 100 homes, give them a complete makeover and provide them as spaces for entrepreneurs and artists.

“You can’t make a dent in the problem thinking about it as one house at a time… We have to think about it as 100 houses and a whole portfolio. That’s the kind of scale to make a dent.”

The project is designed to put money back into St Petersburg local economy by allowing entrepreneurs and artists the opportunity to rent a home at a reasonable rate. Wells has strict restrictions for renters and those who choose to buy including limiting the amount of equity that can be taken out annually and rules about reselling the property.

Venture House is expected to cost $5 million with three main sources of financing behind the budget.

1. Banks

2. Local government seeding grants

3. Private investors

The idea for Venture Homes was not an expected path Wells was taking, but after bringing the idea up at a local community meeting, people seemed to get on board with the idea very quickly asking Wells about his plans for it and before he knew it he was in contact with the government, community leaders and interested investors.

In the long run, Wells is hoping that this prototype of hybrid social impact investing for local regeneration could have the potential to reduce the extreme nature of gentrification. He is confident in Venture Homes and that the size of this project will always allow for reasonable prices that will in turn keep entrepreneurs and artists around.

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