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'Affordable' homes planned for Fort Pierce

July 12, 2006 FORT PIERCE
Northwest Fort Pierce could see its first wave of "affordable" new housing introduced by a private developer as early as next week.

Strong and Quality LLC of Miami, one of the first private developers putting up affordable new homes in the Lincoln Park community, plans to create infill modular housing on vacant lots starting in the vicinity of Avenue M and 15th Street.

Stanley Saltzman, co-founder of the company, and his business partner, Ronald Krongold, are offering the homes at a flat price of $189,000. Workers are already prepping four lots to lay the foundation, and the first homes are expected to arrive next week, at which time Saltzman hopes to begin securing buyers.

"We're not talking about HUD homes or mobile homes," Saltzman said. "These are real solid houses."

Built at a factory in Plant City, the homes are trucked in ? in two sections ? and attached to a foundation. Once the homes are set, local contractors are hired to do the finishing work, including putting stucco on the exterior and painting the home with a special dye advertised to last 10 to 15 years. Compared with a site home where construction can take five to six months, modular homes can be built in six weeks.

Except for garages, "the houses come complete with everything," Saltzman said. "We make affordable houses that are excellent, but we don't want people to go out and buy lots of things for the house because we understand they don't have a lot of money."

The homes, able to withstand 150-mph winds, come with everything including blinds for the windows, a washer and dryer, refrigerator, a self-cleaning smooth top oven, cabinets, island kitchen, storm shutters, carpet and tile. To keep the homes affordable, Saltzman buys up lots usually no larger than 60 feet wide, with no room for attached garages.

Brian O'Connor, the city's community services director, who has been working in conjunction with Fort Pierce Redevelopment Agency Director Jon Ward in creating infill attainable housing in the city, said he has 30 approved applicants lined up for affordable housing for anywhere in the city.

O'Connor has been in talks with Saltzman and hasn't seen specifically what he plans to build, but "he's probably the first one without any subsidy to come in and build affordable housing."

"They're not the flashiest things in the whole world, and I really can't attest to whether this will be good for the city," O'Connor said of modular homes. "I need to see them."

Brad Hunter, who tracks real estate trends on the Treasure Coast and South Florida for Metrostudy's South Florida division, said he sees a successful market in modular housing.

"There's an awful lot of demand for housing under $200,000, and there are very few out there at that price range," Hunter said. "I think it will remain a niche and minority market, but it may increase its share" as more developers enter into the market to meet the demand for affordable housing.

Saltzman built about 21 homes in the Miami-Dade area and said at first his project he was greeted with difficulty, "because people thought, 'Oh, trailers.' "

"But once I took them down to see what I was doing the attitude was changing," he said.

Saltzman hopes to eventually secure a large tract of land so the company can create a neighborhood of affordable homes rather than scattered housing.

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