Carrabelle is poised to get a new development that includes workforce housing, thanks to a $5 million federal loan being sought by a Texas-based real estate firm with offices in Miami.
McDowell Housing Partners, a newly established workforce/affordable development arm of McDowell Properties, has met with city officials and outlined plans to revitalize the vacant Jordan Bayou Preserve subdivision, off Airport Road.
After being started a decade ago, with plats and initial site work, the roughly 39-acre subdivision was never completed and lapsed into foreclosure. Christopher Shear, managing director for McDowell Housing Partners, said 56 lots within the property are now under contract with his firm, which he said since 2004 has developed, owned and operated over 45,000 apartment units across the country, with nearly 2,000 units in Florida.
In a presentation at Carrabelle’s April 4 city commission meeting, Mayor Brenda La Paz outlined details of talks that she, City Administrator Courtney Dempsey and City Clerk Keisha Smith have had with Shear.
To finance the project, he said McDowell is pursuing an approximately $5 million federal HOME Investment Partnership Loan, which is funneled through the Florida Housing Finance Corporation, the same entity that administers the federal low-income tax credits that are being used to support the controversial Denton Cove housing project in Apalachicola.
This program differs, though, from the tax credits, in that it is a low-interest loan, and requires some, but not all, of the units be set aside for affordable housing.
Shear said the HOME loan will provide construction and permanent financing of 50 two-bedroom, two-bath single-family homes, currently estimated to be between 1,000 to 1,200 square feet. “In consideration for the favorable financing we are required to set aside 39 of the 50 homes at workforce rental levels that are adjusted annually by the department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD),” he said.
Of the 39 restricted units, eight will be set aside at Low HOME rents and 31 at High HOME rents, he said. Based on June 2019 numbers this would mean two-bedroom, two-bath units for the Lows will be $586 monthly, and for the Highs $784 per month. Maximum income in 2018 for a three-person family is $37,550 and the max for a four-person family is $41,700, he said, with each likely to increase in June by 3 to 5 percent.
He said the remaining 11 units will be subject to market rates, with no income restrictions. He said the Florida Housing Finance Corporation requires a covenant for the 39 HOME assisted units for 50 years.
“McDowell will remain owner of the asset but will hire a third-party management company,” Shear said, noting that amenities will include on-site property management, multipurpose clubhouse, heated pool, and tot lot.
“We are committed to provide families impacted by the housing shortage due to Hurricane Michael with a quality, safe, and sustainable community to call home,” he said. “In addition, our goal is to create local jobs through construction and the ongoing operation of the development. We are still exploring options of fully built on-site homes or homes with pre-fabricated components such as wall systems, trusses, etc.”
La Paz said she told Shear about the ongoing plans to lease space at the airport to Little Custom Homes, but he said he is not yet knowledgeable about that company. “I am not familiar enough with Little Custom Homes or their products, but we are open to speaking with them if they open the proposed facility in Carrabelle,” he said.
Shear said when construction might commence is difficult to pin down at this point.”There is a lot of work (design, engineering, permitting, financial underwriting, etc.) before we can close on our construction financing and begin to build,” he said. “I will say that we are motivated to close as quickly as possible.”
La Paz said she has asked McDowell to take a look at the City Hall complex at the former Carrabelle High School that was recently vacated. She said Shear said it might make sense to develop a senior living facility for ages 55 and older that would involve tax credits, but that it would need more investigation to see if that would be feasible.