Sarasota businessman Harvey Vengroff continues his push for more affordable housing with the purchase of a North Trail motel — a move that fits into local needs for transitional or emergency housing for homeless families.
Vengroff, who recently bucked plans to move to Belize, bought the 117-unit Sarasota Airport Hotel for $2.25 million, with a price that equated to roughly $19,000 per unit.
Vengroff plans to convert the motel rooms into affordable studio apartment units for low-income families as an alternative to a homeless shelter. He is working with local charities, such as the Salvation Army and Jewish Family & Children’s Services, to find renters that have the best chance of using low-cost housing to move out of poverty.
“It’s going to need a lot of improvements before people are going to want to live there,” Vengroff said. “We plan to start renting them out in a couple of weeks.”
The affordable-housing model is similar to Vengroff’s 100-unit University Row Apartments located north of the Sarasota Airport Hotel. The apartments do not participate in federal, state or local government affordability programs.
Vengroff expects to charge $575 a month per unit, which includes electric and water service. The apartment will feature nighttime security and won’t tolerate abusive drinking and drug use, Vengroff said.
“We’re trying to create a situation for [the renters] where they can work together on things such as childcare,” Vengroff said. “They watch each other’s kids when they aren’t at work. We also make sure they go to work.”
Vengroff also recently proposed an 800-unit apartment complex on Fruitville Road, to create affordable housing, but will need to get approval for more density on that site.
“Everyone in Sarasota bitches and moans about affordable housing, but nobody seems to really want affordable housing,” Vengroff said in a May interview with the Sarasota Observer.