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Developers ask for city’s letter of support

POSTED: April 28, 2014 8:26 p.m.

The developers of a planned apartment complex have asked for the city of Rincon’s assistance in securing financing.

The Beverly J. Searles Foundation aims to build a 60-unit complex off Fort Howard Road, and its representatives asked city council to write a letter supporting the project to the state Department of Community Affairs. With that letter, the project could receive low-income tax credits from the DCA, boosting the project’s backing.

David Russell said the city is allowed to write one letter of support per year to receive funding. The next round of financing is June 7.

“We want to be good neighbors,” he said. “This is meant for working people. The housing will be safe and secure. It will replace substandard housing in the community.”

The project would be $9 million in net development and would build 60 garden-style apartments.

“It is workforce housing,” Russell said. “There are a lot of bad low-income housing projects.”

Earlier this year, Rincon joined the Georgia Initiative for Community Housing, which is designed to help communities assess and meet its housing needs. The local GICH committee has not yet compiled the survey it needs to find out what the needs are.

“We are very new to the GICH program,” said council member Scott Morgan.

City planner Lameisha Kelly said the initiative is to identify and develop better low-income and workforce housing.

“The team has not said we need more low-income apartments,” she said. “What has been identified is low-income single-family housing and code enforcement.”

The Beverly J. Searles Foundation ordinarily focuses on services and housing for adults 55 and older. For the project planned for Fort Howard Road, which would be adjacent to Willowpeg Way and Willowpeg Landing, the target residents are working families.

“It is workforce housing,” Russell said. “The housing will be safe and secure.”

There will be a community center with a computer lab for use afterschool, he added.

Fifty percent of the units will be one-bedroom and 50 percent will be two-bedroom. Rents will be from $500-$700 a month and sizes are from 900-1,100 square feet. Russell also said there will be no rental assistance for tenants.

Under the zoning for the property, R-11, the project will be less dense than it was allowed, Russell said.

The state will issue 600,000 tax credits, and the project will sell its share, Russell said, creating a 10-year income flow. It will generate $2.5 million in tax credit equity and the balance of the project will be financed through regular debt.

Rincon Fire Chief Corey Rahn said the number of calls for public safety assistance from low-income apartments is taxing the fire and police departments. Rahn said he and Rincon Police Chief Phillip Scholl have discussed the need to increase personnel if more such apartment complexes are built.

“That area of Fort Howard Road and Lisa Street is already saturated with multi-family housing,” council member Reese Browher said.

Kelly said the city won’t know its needs until what to put on the survey is finalized, and then it has to conduct the survey. In conducting its survey, the city of Pembroke used two Saturdays to go over 1,000 parcels. Rincon has 3,000 parcels, Kelly added.

“I do think it’s important for us to grasp what our objectives are,” Morgan said. “We have to see where we’re at. The survey is going to be key to whatever we do.”

Russell said the apartment project could have a regenerative effect on the community’s housing stock. Tenants leaving substandard housing that the owner has let deteriorate forces the owner to do something to attract new renters.

“Now they have to invest in their property,” he said.

Russell told council members he did not need an answer immediately, and council members took no action on his request.

“We can’t stop the project if they meet the guidelines,” council member Paul Wendelken. “The question is, do we provide a letter of support?"

Added Browher: “I don’t want to string them along. But they need an answer.”

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