Developer proposes rent-to-own housing
By ALEX LEARY, Times Staff Writer
PORT RICHEY -- A Maitland company wants to develop 43 single-family homes on vacant land at Washington Street and Broadway Avenue, just inside the city limits.
Intended for low- and moderate-income families, Broadway Village would offer a rent-to-own option, with a portion of the monthly payment serving as equity -- a fairly untested concept in Florida.
If approved and followed by a second phase of approximately 30 homes, the complex would represent the most substantial residential development in Port Richey in recent years.
Sandspur Housing Partners, which has submitted preliminary plans to the city, said construction could begin as early as spring 2004, with units ready that fall.
The company has a contract to buy 32 acres off Washington Street now owned by Port Richey Village Inc. Including the land, valued at about $1.5-million, the first phase would cost $7.4-million.
Unattached to each other, the two-story townhouses would have four bedrooms, three baths and a garage.
They would rent for $800 a month and be available to families earning between roughly $18,000 and $40,000, said Scott Culp, executive vice president of the CED Companies, affiliated with Sandspur.
The homes would remain rental properties for 15 years to meet tax-exempt bond financing obligations with the Florida Housing Finance Corp., Culp said.
After two years, a person could begin to build equity in the home, though Culp did not know exactly how much of the rent would be set aside. The payoff would be in about 30 years.
Housing experts said the rent-to-own concept is rare and has demonstrated mixed results elsewhere. "It is not in itself a bad program, but it can be done really poorly," said Harold Simon, executive director of the National Housing Institute in New Jersey.
"It can give people an opportunity to understand what it means to be a homeowner" and works as forced savings, Simon said. But, he said, the program needs to be backed up with financial counseling, which can be as simple as saving for future repairs.
Marvin Rose, a Tampa Bay area housing analyst, questioned the appeal of the program, given the availability of low-cost home financing. It might be cheaper and more expedient to get a mortgage directly, he said.
Culp said the advantage of Broadway Village is that a young family would not have to come up with a down payment. "We're hoping this is a new idea used throughout the state."
City Manager Vince Lupo said it was too early to comment on the merit of the proposal or predict how much property tax the development would generate. First, the project has to make it through planning and zoning.
Part of the property already is zoned PUD, or planned unit development. But that zoning would have to be "amended" to reflect the new use, Lupo said.
Sandspur Housing Partners is not new to Pasco. The company had plans to build and manage 216 subsidized, low-income apartments at Little and Trouble Creek roads in New Port Richey, but the project failed under neighborhood opposition in 2002.
-- Alex Leary covers the city of Port Richey. He can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6247, or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6247. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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