Fannie Mae Sustainable Communities Innovation Challenge

The Florida Housing Coalition is pleased to announce that it has been selected by Fannie Mae as one of three organizations to receive a contract award under the Sustainable Communities Innovation Challenge (The Challenge). In partnership with the Florida Community Loan Fund (FCLF), we will explore the feasibility of adapting vacant commercial spaces into attractive and functional mixed-use apartments and co-working offices for low-income entrepreneurs.

Our Goal

We want to design a replicable and scalable model that can be deployed in communities across Florida and the country. Over the course of 18 months, our staff will speak with local governments, regional and national retailers, developers, finance leaders, designers, and low-income entrepreneurs to understand what is needed and what can be done to turn those vacant commercial spaces into vibrant entrepreneurial communities.

“This an opportunity for creative solutions to the affordable housing issues facing our state.”

– Ashon Nesbitt, Technical Advisor, Florida Housing Coalition

The Challenge

The Challenge is a $10 million initiative launched in 2018, aimed at developing collaborative, cross-sector approaches that advance sustainable communities to help address the nation’s affordable housing issues. Phase 1 of the initiative focuses on supporting the research, design, and development of new ideas and innovative solutions at the intersection of affordable housing and employment and economic opportunities.

Proposals were evaluated against a predetermined set of criteria and went through multiple rounds of review, including a semi-final review by an Expert Advisory Panel comprised of leaders from public, private, and nonprofit sectors. More information can be found at Fannie Mae’s Challenge website here.

Visit this page in the months ahead as the Coalition executes on its contract under The Challenge. Our team will post regular updates on progress and lessons we learn along the way.

Ashon Nesbitt speaking on the Florida Housing Coalition’s winning proposal for Phase One of Fannie Mae’s “Innovation Challenge,” which proposes to reuse vacant commercial space for entrepreneurial co-housing in low-income communities, as an opportunity to advance local economies and stabilize housing costs. 

Technical Assistance

The Florida Housing Coalition offers technical assistance and planning services for adaptive reuse of vacant and non-traditional space. Our team will work with you to determine the maximum possible uses for a space and will assist in pre-development for your site. Our team can help you navigate through the many barriers to adaptive reuse of vacant space, including offering technical assistance on the following:

  • Market analysis and business planning
  • Land use and zoning
  • Traditional and nontraditional financing
  • Housing and economic development subsidies

Request Assistance

For questions, technical assistance, or consulting requests, complete this form or contact Ben Toro-Spears at

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    For more information on adaptive reuse and the Coalition’s technical assistance contact Ashon Nesbitt, Technical Advisor and Research Analyst, at 850.878.4219, or

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