Politics & Government

Bibb, Houston housing plans get tax-credit boost

Four affordable-housing projects in Bibb and Houston counties will get $3.3 million in tax credits for development, 15 percent of the amount handed out statewide.

In Macon-Bibb County, renovation of the former Hunt Elementary School at 990 Shurling Drive into apartments for the elderly will get $657,286 in tax credits, which can be sold to raise money for construction, while turning the former A.L. Miller High School at 2241 Montpelier Ave. into relatively low-priced apartments will qualify the developer for about $1 million in tax credits, said Alison Tyrer, spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

In Houston County, two new construction projects get the credits: $981,733 for senior housing called Oliver Place, on Gray Road in Perry; and $692,668 for the second phase of Potemkin Senior Village at 701 Elberta Road in Warner Robins.

Chris Byrd, development associate for Oracle Consulting Services LLC, said the Kentucky-based company hopes to start work at the Miller school in March or April 2015, and construction will take 12 to 14 months.

The plan is to put in 71 units, home to people who make 60 percent or less of the local median household income, he said.

“We call it ‘workforce housing,’” aimed at low-wage workers, Byrd said. Two of the existing buildings will become apartments, and the old gym will be turned into a community hall, while a row of single-family houses will be built along Birch Street, he said. The project is estimated to take $12 million to $14 million in total investment.

Separately, the Hunt school redevelopment in east Macon will be handled by a nonprofit arm of the Macon Housing Authority.

“We’re very excited, needless to say,” said June Parker, the housing authority’s executive director.

The existing building and two new ones on the 10-acre site would contain 60 apartments for the low-income elderly. The $8 million project would serve residents age 62 and over, Parker said.

“We anticipate that we will have units ready for occupancy in 2016,” she said.

In May, four developers asked Macon-Bibb commissioners for pledges of financial support to help them qualify for the tax credits. Commissioners agreed to support them all -- including the Hunt and Miller school projects -- reasoning that it was unlikely more than one in Macon-Bibb County would get approval. The promised assistance was contingent on getting the tax credits.

The Hunt development was promised a $450,000 loan, to be repaid over 20 years. But the money could be paid out over the next two fiscal years, according to Macon-Bibb spokesman Chris Floore.

The Miller school project asked for $650,000, but not in cash. Instead, Oracle asked for the equivalent of that amount to be spent on improvements to the surrounding neighborhood, such as landscaping, street and sidewalk repair, and clearing run-down houses.

Nearby Mercer University also has concerns about the area, Byrd said. Oracle hopes Macon-Bibb’s money could be spent on buying and renovating some of the abandoned houses in the neighborhood, he said. To that end, the developer plans to bring in the Fuller Center for Housing, which counsels people on how to qualify for first-time home ownership, Byrd said.

“The idea is this is the impetus for a larger revitalization of the neighborhood,” he said. “We couldn’t do the big plan without starting with Miller.”

Floore said Macon-Bibb officials are starting to look at how to keep that $1.1 million financial pledge.

“What we’ll be doing is identifying during the budget process where the funding for the Hunt school would come from, and we’ve already begun early talks about what types of in-kind services could be provided over two years in the area around Miller,” he said.

The city’s existing Five by Five neighborhood cleanup program, which focuses work on streets, lighting and other infrastructure for five weeks in a five-block area, could provide some of that in-kind work in the designated half-mile radius of Miller school, Floore said.

HOUSTON COUNTY PROJECTS

The Oliver Place project in Perry is to be completed by REA Ventures Group LLC, according to a market feasibility study from May that is posted on the DCA website. The plan is to build 90 units of housing for low-income seniors and 10 units to rent at market rates on a 24-acre site between Houston Lake Road and Kings Chapel Road.

“Oliver Place is expected to begin construction in 2015 and will be completed in 2016,” the study says. It would include community and exercise rooms, a playground and on-site laundry.

The study says tax credits would cover 9 percent of the cost. Based on that, the total investment would be about $11 million.

The Potemkin Village development in Warner Robins would be the second phase of affordable housing for people 62 and over. There already are 68 units on a 13-acre site, and the new tax credits would help build 52 more, according to DCA. It’s owned by Missouri-based Fairway Management Inc.

This year there were 57 applications statewide for $22.4 million in federal housing tax credits. Thirty projects are actually approved to receive them, according to a DCA news release. No county had more than two projects approved.

Tax credits are offered for construction of affordable housing for working families, seniors and the disabled. The credits awarded this year are expected to add 2,292 units to Georgia’s affordable housing inventory, for a statewide total of 87,604, according to the news release.

To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.

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