Low income senior and veteran housing opens doors

As seen in The Gainesville Sun, the Arbours at Tumblin Creek is a new affordable housing development in the core of Gainesville, Florida that provides housing opportunities for seniors and veterans. The City and County have both supported this type of residential development that serves an unmet need.

eda is glad to say that we assisted the developer with this outstanding project.

After health issues like lung cancer and bad hips left veteran Richard James disabled and unable to work, he found himself living in and out of his Saturn and a small park in Jacksonville.

“My mental health, my physical health — everything was declining,” the 57-year-old said. “It wasn’t good.”

A year of being homeless led James to believe he didn’t have much to live for.

“I had a gun I carried because I slept in my car,” he said. “And I just thought about walking into the ocean and, you know.”

A year later, James has found a home: a two-bedroom apartment at the Arbours at Tumblin Creek, an affordable housing complex on Southwest 13th Street.

“It feels fantastic,” he said, flashing a crooked smile.

Arbours at Tumblin Creek, 1303 SW 13th St, is the first affordable housing complex set aside for seniors in Gainesville. The five-story development has 64 units with around 96 bedrooms, and started moving in tenants over the weekend.

Arbours tenants must be seniors or veterans age 55 and older and make 60 percent or less of the area’s median income, or around $27,300. These tenants will pay $652 per month in rent for a one-bedroom or $792 for a two-bedroom unit.

Units set aside for those making 35 percent or less of the area median income, or around $15,925, will pay $347 in rent for a one-bedroom or $427 in rent for a two-bedroom unit. The income and rent limits are set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Arbours senior manager Dori Munshower said the complex has five open two-bedroom apartments left for those who make 60 percent or less of the area median income.

“We’re pretty full. We’re getting people who have been staying on friends’ couches or living out of their car or various shelters,” Munshower said. “We’re very excited about this place. It’s been much needed.”

Arbours is able to offer below-market rent because it is financed through the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program, which allocates tax credits to the state through the Florida Housing Finance Corporation to encourage private investment in affordable rental housing by lowering a developer’s borrowing costs.

In this case, Wells Fargo provided $11 million toward the project that it will be able to write off of its federal taxes over 10 years. Arbours also received a $1.9 million loan insured by the Federal Housing Administration and $46,000 from the city of Gainesville’s Connect Free program.

James is only responsible for 30 to 40 percent of his rent, he said, because of a Housing Choice voucher he’s received by the HUD Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program, or HUD-VASH. He’s expecting to only pay around $300 a month to live there.

“It wouldn’t be possible without the people over there at the VA,” he said.

The housing choice voucher program is the federal government’s major program for assisting extremely low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market, according to the HUD website.

Arbours accepts these vouchers, which pay a certain percentage of the tenants’ rent based on need, Munshower said.

The need is there and for more than just the 64 units the Arbours development is providing, said Steve Lowitz, a principal at Birmingham-based Arbour Valley Development.

“If we added 100 more units, they’d be filled overnight,” he said.

A market analysis by the developer showed a shortage of 1,215 affordable rental units for seniors and veterans in the area, according to Lowitz.

And the shortage continues to grow, he said.

“The number continues to increase every day — it’s endless,” he said. “Gainesville continues to be a mecca for the baby boomer generation.”

According to Alachua County census data, the population of persons 65 years or older increased from 10.8 percent in 2010 to 13.4 percent in 2016.

The Census Bureau expects the share of the population 65 and up in the U.S. to rise from 14 percent in 2017 to 20 percent in 2030.

Florida’s 65-and-older crowd is already 20 percent.

Lowitz said because the demand is so high for affordable housing for seniors, he intends to bring more projects like Arbours at Tumblin Creek to Gainesville, but not to make a profit, he said. In fact, he said he didn’t make much, if any, on the Tumblin Creek project.

Lowitz said he’s been in contact with Gainesville City Commissioners Charles Goston and Helen Warren, who he said “have affordable housing on their hearts,” about bringing more affordable housing developments to east Gainesville.

“With developing low-income housing comes a passion for it,” he said. “It sounds like we all get rich, but not necessarily. We’re trying to give back by giving people hope.”