Nestled near pricey student flats, a haven for seniors, vets

eda is proud to have provided civil engineering services for the new Arbours at Tumblin Creek development. This  Gainesville Sun article provides some details of the new development on SW 13th Street.


An Alabama developer with local ties has started work on affordable apartments for seniors and veterans in the middle of a high-rent student housing area.

The five-story Arbours at Tumblin Creek will provide 96 bedrooms in 64 units when it opens in about 14 months at 1303 SW 13th St. next to the Indian Cultural and Education Center.

Site work is under way and a vacant house will be demolished before construction begins.

A market analysis by Birmingham-based Arbour Valley Development showed a shortage of 1,215 affordable rental units for seniors and veterans in the area, according to Steve Lowitz, a principal in the company and a University of Florida graduate.

“The problem right now in Gainesville, there are a lot of seniors making little to no income and having a hard time finding housing,” he said. “Unfortunately, we’re only doing 64 units. The town could use a few hundred units or more. That’s all we could get done on the site.”

While there is a need for even more units, Pamela Davis, executive director of the Gainesville Housing Authority, called the development a “great start in assisting us in meeting the needs in our community.”

“Many of our seniors are on a fixed income, which makes the housing cost burden very heavy for most,” she said.

Davis cited Florida Housing Data Clearinghouse statistics showing that out of 7,708 households in Gainesville headed by a person age 65 or older in 2014, 34 percent — or 2,586 elderly households — are cost-burdened, meaning they pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing.

She said she looks forward to partnering with Arbours as a place where older GHA clients who qualify for rent assistance can use Housing Choice vouchers. The GHA also works with the Veterans Affairs HONOR Center to provide vouchers to homeless veterans that could be used at Arbours.

Vianne Marchese, chief of community care for the North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System, said about 600 veterans have received housing vouchers through the Gainesville and Alachua County housing authorities.

She said the median age for vets in the program is mid-50s and the majority are single or have small families who can be difficult to place because smaller, affordable units are in short supply.

Marchese said Arbours’ location is another selling point “because many of our veterans have difficulty with transportation so they need to be near amenities like shopping, the VA and bus lines.”

Lowitz said Arbour Valley chose the location for its proximity to UF Health, the VA Medical Center and bus-route access.

That also puts Arbours at Tumblin Creek in one of the highest-rent areas of Gainesville with mostly student housing, including a lot of new luxury apartments, close to UF.

The average monthly rent in Gainesville was $891 in May, up nearly 7 percent from a year ago, according to ALN Apartment Data. The average one-bedroom rate was $730 and the two-bedroom rate was $946.

Arbours tenants must be seniors or veterans age 55 and older and make 60 percent or less of the area median income, or $26,820 for a single person who will pay $503 per month and $30,660 for a married couple at $862 for a two-bedroom unit. Seven units will be set aside for those making 35 percent or less of the area median income, or $15,645 for an individual for $419 in rent and $17,885 for a couple for $718 in rent. The income and rent limits are set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Arbours is able to offer below-market rents 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 a required local government pledge of $46,000 from the city of Gainesville’s Connect Free program.

John Wachtel, a planner in the city’s Housing and Community Development division, said one of the goals of Connect Free — designed to fund water hookups — is to help promote affordable housing.

FHFC has allocated $201 million in housing tax credits for 53,000 affordable rental units since the program was created in 1986. In Gainesville, 15 apartment complexes have created 1,719 affordable units through the program, but Arbours will be the first set aside for seniors.

Arbour Valley has built market-rate and affordable housing projects throughout Florida and Alabama, including Arbours at Williston, an affordable housing project for families that accepts vouchers.