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Council divided on senior affordable housing
October 8, 2019

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The Cape Coral City Council was split on Monday regarding a proposed affordable housing complex downtown in which the city's CRA would give the contractors a loan with city funds in order to get it off the ground.

The vote at Monday's general meeting was 4-3, with the dissenters wanting more information on the project before committing to it while those in support said there is a huge need for affordable housing in the city.

American Residential Commu-nities has proposed Madison Square, an affordable high-rise senior housing complex at 817 Miramar St., according to Stacey Banach, .

The 74-unit, seven-story complex would be for seniors earning a minimum of 33 percent of the area median income (AMI), with 10 percent of housing going toward that, with the rest going to those who earn 60 percent of AMI.

Half of the 33 percent units (5) will be for those with special needs, with the possible projects being for survivors of domestic violence or with a disabling condition or persons with a disabling condition.

For those at 33 percent, a one-bedroom, one-bath unit will cost $358 per month, with a 2/2 starting at $421 per month. At 60 percent, it will be $698 for a 1/1 and $829 for a 2/2.

Amenities will include access to property management support 24 hours a day/7 days a week, supervised activities, light housekeeping, grocery shopping and laundry, and daily checking in on each resident.

The sticking point was the loan in the amount of $560,250 from the city and funded by the city's CRA.

In a memo to council, City Manager John Szerlag said two years ago the Florida Housing Finance Corporation created a pilot program for municipalities to provide monetary support for projects in areas where they desired to spur development.

Mayor Joe Coviello said he needed more information on the program before agreeing to it, a sentiment that was echoed by Councilmember John Gunter, even if they did concede there is a need.

Councilmember Marilyn Stout was concerned by a letter she received just before the meeting regarding complaints made by employees and tenants regarding ARC about business practices and the quality of its work and what it would do to traffic on Cape Coral Parkway.

Banach believed there is another company with the same name in Colorado that works with mobile home units.

The rest of council agreed with the plan, saying it's a project that is badly needed in a city that lacks affordable housing, and for those who are among the poorest of the poor with special needs.

"The CRAs are to have affordable housing and reduce blight. We haven't done anything with affordable housing and we need it," Councilmember Jessica Cosden said, and joined the other three in supporting the loan.

"I think the council did the right thing. This went through a vetting process with the CRA, so the City Council had a short time to look at this," Banach said. "I think they looked at staff who looked at this and decided this is a proper thing to do."

The developer will now submit an application to FHFC with a deadline of Nov. 5, with selections made by next spring. If the application is successful, staff will work to create the documents and interagency agreement between the city and the CRA.

Coviello said this is not a done deal. ARC will now have to get those tax credits and if they get selected, they'll come back.

"I was looking for financial vetting and disclosure from the developer. We'll have an opportunity for that down the road if they get selected and say yes or no to the project," Coviello said.

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