CRESTVIEW, Fla. (WKRG) — What city staff and residents deemed a crime-filled part of Crestview is being transformed to combat the affordable housing crisis. A church in Fort Walton Beach placed a bid to create 18 affordable units to be named the Vineyard Village.

City Manager Tim Bolduc worked with the council to buy land and units located between West Field Ave and West Bowers Ave. Bolduc said the place was run down and used for drug deals and other criminal activity.

“There were six very rundown houses that really and truly they should not have been lived in,” said Buldoc. “We reached out to the people who own the properties and informed them that they were gonna end up dealing with code enforcement and instead they offered to sell the property to the city.”

The city worked with different organizations to replace the tenants. Instead of letting the land go to developers hoping to earn a profit, Buldoc saw this land as an opportunity to push the community forward.

“We needed to figure out why did people feel like it was ok to have illegal activity at this location, and it was really that they had just been allowed to go into such a run-down state that people felt like it was OK to conduct that type of activity,” said Buldoc. “We immediately sought to engage to enter into an agreement for development on the property that would go back to solving what the real problem is, which is people who can’t afford to stay in the housing the way that the market sits right now.”

Reverend Cecil Willians with Gregg Chapel in Fort Walton Beach entered a bid for the Crestview project and won. The church has a history of creating housing for mid-low-income families.

“We have a long history of doing this type of thing in Fort Walton. We have a project down here that we did, our very first one was two old military barracks that we took and we turned those into five apartments, circled them around a house on some property that we had, and still today we rent those,” said Rev. Williams. “Then we worked with the Housing Authority and the county for other units that we’ve done in our last project over on Mallard Ave. and Nicholson St. in Fort Walton Beach. We demolished two old homes that we owned, combined the lot, and built six apartments for homeless veterans and all of those are full.”

The next step is to finish a site plan and start construction for the 18-unit project. Rev. Williams and Buldoc said the project is set to be done by the end of 2023. Tennants will be selected by a local realty group in Crestview to ensure it is going to people that need the help.

Proposal by Gregg Chapel, Credit: City fo Crestview

A church joining the real estate market may seem a bit wild, but Rev. Williams says it is all part of his mission.

“This is part of our ministry housing,” said Rev. Williams. “We gotta feed sheep, gotta clothe the sheep and gotta house the sheep so we just feel that it’s part of a biblical calling on our church to do so. It’s not new to us.”

The project is estimated to cost $2.5 million, shared between the church, the city, and grants.

The units will be apartment-style homes, available with one and two bedrooms. Rent will stay around $500 to 600 for one, and $800 to 900 for two.

More information about availability and renting will be released in 2023.

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