Press Release

State of Florida
Department of Children and Families
Rick Scott

David E. Wilkins

Big Bend Commmunity Based Care
September 22, 2011
Barbara Flury, Capitol Alliance Group, (941) 626-5729
Erin Gillespie, DCF Press Secretary, (850) 459-2063

~ Affordable Housing Community Targets Youth Aging Out of Foster Care ~

Big Bend Community-Based Care is hosting a groundbreaking ceremony for its new multifamily affordable housing project called "Independence Village." Independence Village is a 24-unit affordable rental housing community targeting youth aging out of foster care (ages 18-22) who are currently participants in the "Independent Living" program, which includes requirements for employment and education.

The project is being developed by Independence Village LLC, a subsidiary of Big Bend Community Based Care, Inc. The Florida Department of Children and Families contracts with Big Bend as the not-for-profit foster care and child services agency for 12 counties in the Big Bend region.

This concept was initiated in 2008 in an effort to help alleviate the housing crisis facing young adults who are transitioning out of the foster care system. Big Bend partnered with the Florida Housing Finance Corporation and Summit Bank of Panama City to finance and develop the project. Other partners include the City of Panama City, whose mayor, city council, planning staff and Community Redevelopment Agency were instrumental in making the project a success.

"We are extremely excited about this project. Independence Village will provide much needed clean, safe and affordable rental housing to youth aging out of the foster care system," said Big Bend CEO Mike Watkins. "It will help provide a strong foundation for them to work and go to school and successfully transition into adulthood."

Construction on the 24-unit, 12 duplex project is currently underway, and the units will be available for occupancy by Dec. 1. Rents for the units will be affordable, ranging from $328 to $685 per month. Big Bend currently has 40-50 young adults who would qualify for the rental units. At least half of the units will be designated for Independent Living Youth, while the rest will be available to other low-income families. The construction for the project will create an estimated 25 local jobs.

"This project is so important to our Independent Living youth," said Vicki Abrams, DCF Regional Managing Director. "We are thrilled that the community has come together to support these young adults and fill the gap of affordable housing, especially during these tough economic times."

Watkins and Abrams, along with several youth who are potential tenants, will be available at the event. Panama City Mayor Greg Brudniki and members of the city commission are expected to attend as well.

The groundbreaking will be held at 10:30 a.m., Sept. 26, at 910 Harrison Street in downtown Panama City. Please come and join us in this exciting venture!