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Jordan Park tops tax-credits list

The ranking would generate about $11.9-million for the rebuilding of Jordan Park.

By LEONORA LaPETER

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 12, 2000


The redevelopment of two of the Tampa Bay area's largest public housing projects may be more financially secure than originally thought.

In the latest ranking of projects, the Florida Housing Finance Corp. placed St. Petersburg's Jordan Park project first among those competing for $3-million in federal low income housing tax credits. Tampa's project to rebuild Ponce De Leon Courts and College Hill Homes ranked third, also putting it in line to receive the valuable tax credits.

The ranking, which won't be final until Sept. 22, would generate about $11.9-million for the rebuilding of Jordan Park, or half its residential building costs. Additional appeals hearings in September could stir up the rankings once again.

"Barring something catastrophic, which I can't imagine, we're in very, very good shape to be awarded the tax credits," said St. Petersburg Housing Authority executive director Darrell J. Irions.

Officials with the Florida Housing Finance Corp. failed to answer questions about the rankings despite repeated attempts to reach them Thursday and Friday. The agency has been under investigation by Comptroller Bob Milligan, who recently released an audit finding it showed favoritism in handing out contracts, placed tax money into its own accounts and paid for extravagant employee perks. The Tallahassee agency was holding a board meeting in Key West.

Jordan Park's application was originally the lowest-scoring among five housing projects seeking tax credits from the Florida Housing Finance Corp. That rejection appeared to throw the project's financing into jeopardy. Without the tax credits, the authority would have had to scale back the project.

Part of the problem was a faulty fax transmission that left out a portion of a lease, but the housing finance agency also had issues with other portions of the application -- small details that have since been corrected, said Russell Sibley of Greater Miami Neighborhoods, a private consultant the authority hired to manage the project.

St. Petersburg's project may have risen above the rest because it will serve very low-income residents, Sibley said.

A third of Jordan Park's tenants must be families who earn no more than 20 percent of the Tampa Bay area's median income. A third must earn no more than 40 percent of the median income. And a third can earn up to 60 percent of the median income.

The Tampa Housing Authority's project placed third in the rankings, paving the way for it to also receive its full tax credit request. If approved as it is now ranked, it would receive $25.3-million in tax credits over 10 years.

Tampa received a $32.5-million federal grant to raze and rebuild Ponce De Leon Courts and College Hill Homes, two of Tampa's most dilapidated public housing projects.

Developers sell the tax credits to private investors, who pay an average of 80 cents on the dollar for the right to cut their federal tax bills by the amount of the tax credits.

Landex Corp., part of the private development group that will rebuild Jordan Park and manage it, has secured investors who will pay 86 cents for every dollar of tax credits available -- $1.3-million a year for 10 years.

St. Petersburg and Tampa are competing for $3-million in tax credits set aside for communities that received Hope 6 grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development or were designated as Front Porch Florida communities. St. Petersburg was the only community that had both designations.

The St. Petersburg Housing Authority won a $27-million grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to rebuild Jordan Park.

The public housing complex, just south of Ninth Avenue S and west of 22nd Street S, is being demolished. Construction is expected to start in November on a new, more residential-style mix of duplexes, homes and small apartments that will become available sometime in 2002.

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