It’s been a long time coming, more than six years, through expensive court fights, and heated city commission and school board meetings.
And now, with that contentious fight now in the past, Apalachicola is about to give birth to the first large-scale affordable housing project in many years.
A little more than a month ago, Wendover Housing Partners LLC began clearing the site and commencing construction for Denton Cove, a 52-unit rental complex on 3.66 acres at the former Apalachicola High School site on the land at 17th Street and Avenue L.
Ryan von Weller, Wendover’s managing director of real estate development, said the work, handled by Roger B. Kennedy Construction, out of Orlando, should be complete by the end of the year, with units available for lease sometime in the first quarter of 2022.
Plans for the complex comprise eight three-bedroom units, 32 two-bedroom units and 12 one-bedroom units. Amenities will include a clubhouse with activity and gathering room, fitness room, computer center, splash pad, and tot lot.
Financing for Denton Cove has come through $9.4 million in federal low-income housing tax credits - $940,000 annually for 10 years – awarded Wendover by the Florida Housing Finance Corporation.
These tax credits, first
granted in 2015, were subsequently extended by FHFC due to Wendover’s involvement in a
protracted court battle, first with the city and later the county school board,
as well as the effects of Hurricane Michael.
The court battle was ultimately resolved in Wendover’s favor, so that now Denton Cove must have the project in service by the end of 2022 and must expend at least 10 percent of the monies it has been awarded by the end of this month.
Taylore Maxey, press secretary for FHFC, said with later additions, the total amount of 9 percent housing credits awarded to Denton Cove stands at a little more than $1.31 million. In addition Wendover secured a state-guaranteed viability loan in the amount of $2.25 million, which closed April 6.
In order to be awarded these federal tax credits, which von Weller said had been acquired by Bank of America through National Equity Fund, Inc., a national non-profit syndicator, Wendover proposed a plan to FHFC that would ensure the apartments would be rented only to low-income tenants.
Maxey said that 10 percent, or six units, are set aside for residents whose income does not exceed 40 percent of the county’s Area Median Income, which as of April 1, was $58,700. The remaining 46 units are to be rented to households whose income is no more than 60 percent of AMI.
This means that based on current numbers, an individual renter could not make more than $24,420 annually to qualify for one of the 46 units, and that a couple could earn no more than $27,900 between them. A family of three could not earn more than $31,380 per year, and four no greater than $34,860 annually.
For the six lower-income units, the ceilings for a single-member household would be $16,280; for two residents $18,600; for three $20,920; and for four-person households $23,240.
As it stands now, the rents, based on numbers provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, would range from $436 to $604 per month for the six lower-income units, and between $654 and $906 for the 46 units.
HUD policy prevents Wendover from limiting applications to people who live in Franklin County, but von Weller said he does not expect there to be strong demand from outside the county.
“That is a policy we do not control at all,” he said. “We anticipate the vast majority will be coming from local areas.”
He said the company has an obligation to try to provide housing in the complex for disabled individuals, but that there is a time limit to how long a unit must stay empty if no suitable applicants are found.
Asked about how he would respond to those in the community who opposed the project, von Weller declined comment.
“We have fully permitted everything required, in terms of stormwater and utilities,” he said. “We’ve done everything appropriately.”
Apalachicola City Manager Travis Wade told city commissioners Tuesday evening that Wendover had received its building permit, and approval for water and sewer.
He sought to dispel rumors that the large mounds of dirt piled up on the adjacent school board property would be distributed free to city residents. “That is not the case,” said Wade. “Don’t call the city for a free truckload of dirt; they’re not giving it away.”
Commissioner Despina George asked that Wade keep a watchful eye to ensure Wendover is compliant with any city ordinances regarding placing fill dirt on the property.
Wade said that in excavating the property, the contractor secured permission from School Superintendent Steve Lanier to place, temporarily, the mounds of dirt on the bus barn property.
“The expansion of their construction site into the bus barn area (has) greatly expanded their footprint,” George said. “They have porta-potties and pipes on city property adjacent to the site. I see trucks coming in with fill dirt. Are engineers keeping an eye on that?
“All of those issues need to be monitored to see if they’re in compliance,” she said.
Wade said he did not believe the city had rules prohibiting the piling of dirt on adjacent sites, with permission of the landowner. He said the city has asked that the contractor put up a silt fence, to contain dirt in the event it rains, and to erect a construction fence.