TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – $25 million and nearly 700 homes in Sarasota County: That’s the deal reached by the Sarasota County Board of Commissioners. Although intended to solve the affordable housing problem using a combination of federal funding and private investment, the project comes with a caveat.
New housing for low-income residents who benefit must be completed in less than two years.
Commission Chairman Alan Maio told organizations that proposed the projects to only ‘enter’ for the money if they could meet the tight 18-month deadline for planning and construction, start to finish .
Sarasota’s BCC on Tuesday approved the county’s investment of $25 million to address a housing crisis caused by lack of affordability and availability across the state of Florida. The program aims to help different categories of residents who need sustainable and affordable housing.
According to the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, these categories include “eligible uses of capital investments ‘listed’, eligible recipients, eligible populations, spending obligations and timelines, and qualifying subrecipient agreement agencies.”
Each project aims to build low-cost housing for residents earning a maximum of 80% of the median income of the district. The US Treasury defines its target populations as “impacted” or “disproportionately impacted” residents, which means that their incomes are sometimes below 65% of the MAI.
The AMI in Sarasota County is $77,200. That means residents who can benefit from the proposed projects, when completed, must earn no more than $61,750, according to the county’s 2021 AMI records.
Commissioner Nancy Detert said the vote to approve the funding would provide money to build more affordable housing than the county has ever done before, but not all commissioners fully agreed. Vice President Ron Cutsinger said that while some of the partner developers had a proven track record in building and maintaining the homes they provide, he was mostly concerned about giving away such a large sum of money.
Commissioner Michael Moran also expressed concern over the approval of the project, noting that failure to meet deadlines could expose ratepayers.
Meeting the deadline for builds, which are spread across the county and among eight community partners, could be more difficult. In the back and forth from the BCC meeting on Tuesday, the number of houses or housing units to be built rose from 623 to 696, but the amount of funding remained at $25 million from the American Rescue Plan Act. Coronavirus Local County Fiscal Recovery Fund.
|Partner organization||Project||Units||BCC units||ARPA BCC Allowance||Total costs||BCC ARPA %|
|Loveland Center, Inc.||The Villas of Loveland Village||80||80||$5,000,000||$16,000,000||31.3%|
|Atlantic Housing Foundation||North Harbor Waters||288||288||$1,500,000||$40,000,000||3.8%|
|Support for Community Life (CASL)||New trail square||106||106||$4,200,000||$28,000,000||15.0%|
|South Sarasota County Family Promise||Parkside Cabins Expansion||2||2||$500,000||$500,000||100.0%|
|South Sarasota County Family Promise||South County Homes||7||0||$0||$2,700,000||0.0%|
|Habitat for Humanity Sarasota, Inc.||Single Family Affordable Housing Units||32||0||$0||$10,976,000||0.0%|
|harvest house||Return home II||6||6||$800,000||$850,000||94.1%|
|OHCD and SHA||Central gardens||30||30||$3,000,000||$8,250,000||36.4%|
|Sarasota Housing Authority (SHA)||Cypress Square Phase I (fka Amaryllis Park Place Phase II)||84||84||$3,000,000||$25,000,000||12.0%|
|Sarasota Housing Authority (SHA)||Lofts on Citron Phase II||100||100||$7,000,000||$31,700,000||22.1%|
Beginning in April, the county will begin meeting with partners to discuss grant grant eligibility requirements and what each organization must do to receive the money for the builds. County documents also warn partners that “this is a short deadline to meet.”
Even the project planners agree, the deadline could be an issue.
According to Jon Thaxton, senior vice president for community leadership at the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, said the additional units added to projects receiving funding could be a problem, but not as much as the “accelerated” dates set by the commission. County.
The Treasury requires funding provided by ARPA to be committed by December 31, 2024 and spent by December 31, 2026. The BCC has instead opted to move the obligation and use deadline to 18 months, which according to Thaxton, “isn’t much time.” The projects to be built in that timeframe are all what Thaxton called “specialty housing”, so “a lot of the off-the-shelf items don’t work”. By that, he means it’s more difficult to obtain items like appliances and some building materials due to the current economic climate of supply chain delays and labor shortages.
Plus, “additional government bureaucracy like procurement guidelines,” harder to meet, according to Thaxton. In addition to this, the inclusion of Loveland Center units was not included in the original GCCF proposal, so the organization was unsure how this would affect meeting construction and funding deadlines set by the county to approve the $25 million in funding.
Thaxton said the GCCF had already “rejected” some of the projects it wanted funding for, fearing deadlines could not be met. Still, he said, “We have the highest level of confidence” that projects submitted and approved will be completed within the timeframes and deadlines set by Sarasota BCC.
He said the biggest hurdle for approved projects to meet the deadline was how the funding was disbursed.
Part of the program proposal included the use of what is called a low-income housing tax credit. The GCCF stated in planning documents that “the primary source of funding has been the Florida Housing Finance Corporation’s Competitive 9% Low-Income Housing Tax Credit.” The proposal stated that the organization intended to “pursue a LIHTC/4% tax-exempt bond funding structure” to fund the project, allowing for surge funding and using the dollars to build more. of housing units.
Thaxton said getting a 9% LIHTC was like “winning the lottery, there aren’t many of those out there. The county, Sarasota, receives one a year. According to Thaxton, the plan was to use the 9% LIHTC to reimburse part of the program and use multiple 4% credits to open eligibility for the 9% application. Small loans are easier to obtain and funds are disbursed faster, making them attractive to use. Now projects will need more cash to buy what they need.
“Now we have to figure out if we can find another source of funding for the 9%, which makes the timeline an issue,” Thaxton said. The change means that the GCCF and other partners involved in the build effort need to check if they can keep the project at the 4% credits in order to meet the deadlines. Yet financing has become more complicated due to the change. Thaxton said there was “no simple, dry answer” to the timeline challenges, but he remained optimistic.
“We are still confident that we can meet the deadline,” Thaxton said.
If they are able to meet the deadline and build nearly 700 new homes for the county, the benefit will help Sarasota with what Commissioner Detert called one of its core principles.
“It certainly meets one of our basic principles, which is to make Sarasota a better place to live,” the District 3 commissioner said at the March 29 BCC meeting. “So far nobody, a lot of people can afford to live here, it helps alleviate this problem.
None of Sarasota’s BCC members voted against the proposal to use the $25 million to build affordable housing in the county, but feasibility and cost remained concerns even as commissioners voted.