Elected officials from the county and city of Port St. Joe were presented the latest proposal to bring affordable housing to the south end of the county.
The Paces Foundation, which last year applied but was turned down for state tax credits that would be leveraged for private funding to construct affordable housing, brought the new initiative to the Board of County Commissioners last week.
And during a joint workshop between the BOCC and Port St. Joe last week the two boards agreed to explore the feasibility of the proposal to build roughly 50 units on 40 acres of land off Clifford Sims Blvd. that is owned by the city of Port St. Joe.
There is no time to waste. Applications for the new dollars are due July 1 and both bodies said they would consider options in the next two weeks.
The proposal is to pursue a portion of some $20 million in HOME grant dollars, which flow from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to states for use in partnership with non-profits to make affordable housing a reality.
The Florida Housing Finance Corp. is administering those funds, said Mark Dumas with the PACES Foundation, for small- and medium-sized communities.
The Paces Foundation, a Georgia-based non-profit which leverages public housing dollars with private financing to build affordable housing in the Southeast, proposes to apply for $6 million.
The hitch for local officials is that application would require a local match, which Dumas suggested must be at least 5 percent under the competitive grant process, roughly $300,000.
“That would leverage that for $6 million which is a pretty good investment,” Dumas said. “But it has to be a third party. We can not provide the match.”
In addition, Dumas said Paces could bring roughly $2 million private debt to the table, making the total investment $8 million to construct the 50 units.
The BOCC considered last week whether or not it had available State Housing Initiative Plan (SHIP) funds with a new allocation from the state coming July 1.
County administrator Don Butler said during the joint workshop that county staff was reviewing available and anticipated funds.
“It may work or it may not,” Butler said.
Another advantage of the HOME initiative, Dumas noted, was that it could bring affordable housing to the community more quickly than waiting until next year’s round for applications for the state tax credits.
Those tax credits, Dumas added, also are distributed under a lottery as opposed to competitive grant applications as with HOME.
“This way we don’t have to wait until next year and lose in the lottery again,” Dumas said.
County commissioner Tan Smiley, at the BOCC meeting and ensuing joint workshop, said with all the discussion about the potential for job-generation for the port, the other side of the economic development coin, affordable housing, must be addressed.
“If we are going to bring in the jobs we have to have a place for people to live,” Smiley said.
City attorney Tom Gibson noted that last year commissioners moved ahead with a comprehensive plan amendment to accommodate the affordable housing, but had “backed off” when Paces did not win a lottery spot for tax credits.
He said the only steps remaining were to submit the amendment to the Department of Economic Opportunity for final approval.