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    Housing company to buy complex

    The city signs off on the purchase of 568 apartments by a Fort Lauderdale company that provides housing for low- and moderate-income people.


    © St. Petersburg Times, published December 6, 2000

    LARGO -- A non-profit company that provides affordable housing is planning to buy the 568-unit Brittany Bay Apartments, one of the largest housing developments in the city.

    Reliance Housing Foundation will take over the complex after it receives $30-million in bonds for the project. The company could not get the bonds without the city's approval. City commissioners unanimously agreed to the proposal during a meeting Tuesday night.

    The apartment complex is at 1201 Seminole Blvd., about one-half mile south of East Bay Drive. Reliance officials and their attorneys had been negotiating with Brittany Bay for about six months.

    "I think it's a good property and a good asset for Reliance," said Reliance president Robert O. Jackson.

    Reliance, a Fort Lauderdale company, was created in 1997 to provide housing for low- and moderate-income people. The company plans to spend $1.8-million to finish a series of interior and exterior improvements to the complex that were started by its current owners. The enhancements will include landscaping and roof and gutter repairs.

    Foundation officials told commissioners that none of the current tenants will be forced out.

    Reliance's proposal was uncharted territory for Largo commissioners. They first heard the idea at a meeting last month and asked the city staff to provide more information about the company. City officials were concerned that the company wanted to convert the complex into apartments exclusively for low-income residents. Commissioners have said they do not want a large number of low-income households in one neighborhood.

    Those concerns were eased by a requirement that a least one-quarter of the apartments be set aside for residents regardless of income in order for Reliance to get the bonds.

    "I was looking for a reason not to approve this, but I cannot find a reason not to do so," said Commissioner Marty Shelby. "I hope that this works. I hope that this is an asset to the community."

    Forty percent of the complex's apartments must go to families with incomes of $28,500 or less, according to terms of the bond agreement. Another 35 percent of the apartments will be rented to families with incomes of $38,000 or less, the agreement stipulates. A study of Brittany Bay tenants found its residents fit those income demographics.

    Brittany Bay will be the largest housing complex Reliance has managed. The company manages properties in Dania Beach, Sanford and Lauderhill.

    Reliance took over a 96-unit apartment complex in Dania Beach that had problems with drug dealers, prostitutes and street gangs in December 1998. The company spent $6.6-million on a comprehensive renovation plan to repair leaky roofs, and install new doors, windows and appliances. It also built a 3,500-square-foot day care center.

    Reliance officials said they are excited about the prospects of purchasing Brittany Bay.

    "We'll be here for the long-term, and we're excited about the opportunity," said Jackson.

    - Times researcher Kitty Bennett contributed to this report.

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