March 6, 2023
New Sarasota housing collaborative partners with landlords for more rentals amid crisis
Categories: Stories of Impact, COMMUNITY CARE: Placemaking: Housing, Transportation & Economic Support, Season of Sharing,
Jonathan Frankel has called Sarasota home for 33 years.
His kids went to local schools, he owned a nice house, and he ran a thriving tiling business.
“I was the marble man for the rich and famous,” says Frankel, 59.
Which is why it came as a shock to find himself living in a series of motels for the last 21 months after his previous landlord decided to sell the property he was renting.
“I couldn’t find anything,” Frankel said of the severe apartment shortage as well as steep income requirements and deposits required before moving in.
“It’s disgusting,” he said.
Frankel has finally secured a condo to rent. But he didn't do it alone.
His is one of more than a dozen success stories of the new Suncoast Housing Collaborative launched late last year.
The collaborative is an alliance between social service agencies and landlords – modeled after a successful Nashville project – with a goal to free up hundreds of units for struggling families and individuals by offering incentives to landlords to lower or remove steep rental barriers.
That could include income requirements, move-in fees, or denials due to previous evictions or poor credit.
In exchange, the landlords receive a package of incentives: $1,000 on top of the deposit in the event of damage; a $2,000 sign-up bonus for the first five units leased through the collaborative; and a $500 bonus for every tenant signed up after that.
In addition, if the tenant breaks the one-year lease with no notice, the collaborative will pay that month’s rent and find a replacement for the unit.
Since the collaborative began in mid-November, following delays due to Hurricane Ian, it has enrolled 18 landlords and found units for 17 households.
It also brought 16 social service agencies on board to both refer clients and provide ongoing wraparound case management – another benefit to tenants and landlords alike.
Organizers are actively recruiting additional landlords in order to house more people in the crisis.
“We are definitely looking to expand further and get the word out to landlords,” said Lauren Bowen, project manager at Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness, the nonprofit overseeing the collaborative initiative in Sarasota and Manatee counties.
“We would love any and all landlords to be a part of it.”
Finding them has been a challenge.
Lizzie Goddard, the architect of the successful Nashville model who was brought on as a consultant for the local initiative, called this region’s housing shortage “eye-opening.”
For instance, within six months, Nashville’s collective was able to enroll thousands of units, with anywhere between 100 and 200 of them available in any given month – most from large communities.
That hasn’t been the case here.
The 18 landlords that have joined the collaborative so far represent 30 units, most from small owners. The big ones are booked.
“What we’re seeing in Sarasota, they are saying, ‘Sorry, we don’t have availability for months. There is nothing coming online. Maybe we can call you in three to six months, if we put you on the list,’” Goddard said.
“I do think we’re seeing more interest from smaller landlords, which is fantastic,” Goddard added.
Interested landlords can access the collaborative’s new website at www.suncoasthousingcollaborative.com or email questions directly to Bowen at email@example.com.
Prospective tenants can visit the website but will need to contact local nonprofits to participate and apply.
The community’s nonprofits and philanthropic agencies have been instrumental to the collaborative, said Taylor Neighbors, program manager for Suncoast Partnership.
That includes the Community Foundation of Sarasota’s Season of Sharing monies as well as a $250,000 grant from the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation as part of a flexible housing fund.
With that, Neighbors said, the collaborative has been able to help distressed renters with steep deposits and first-last months’ rents required before they move in.
That’s how Frankel finally found a home.
While Frankel, who currently collects disability, and his girlfriend were able to afford the $2,350 rent for the two-bedroom condo in Nokomis, the collaborative came up with the $7,050 deposit necessary to get them through the front door.
As he prepares to move in later this week, Frankel praised his new landlord and the collaborative contact, who have been working directly together to make this happen.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “I feel relief.”
See this story as it originally appeared in Sarasota Herald-Tribune on March 6, 2023.