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Developer looks to expand affordable housing for seniors
Tax credits would be part of revitalization plan
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Located at 1326 Myrtle St. in Gainesville, Myrtle Terraces has 84 units of age-restricted housing. The developer of the senior living homes is hoping the city will authorize a community revitalization plan for the area as a way to help secure tax credits necessary to add more apartment units. - photo by Erin O. Smith

The developer of the Myrtle Terraces senior living homes in Gainesville is hoping the city will authorize a community revitalization plan for the area as a way to help secure tax credits necessary to add more apartment units.

“We desperately need help from the city,” said David Searles Jr., of Searles Realty Advisors in Sandy Springs. “Unfortunately, we cannot plan and finance phase two until after such a plan is adopted.”

Located at 1326 Myrtle St., Myrtle Terraces has 84 units of age-restricted housing. It is located in a “qualified census tract,” where poverty rates are 20 percent or higher.

Searles said Myrtle Terraces needs low-income housing tax credits awarded through the state Department of Community Affairs.

The Georgia Mountains Regional Commission would prepare a Community Revitalization Plan after the city authorizes them to do so, Searles said.

The demand for such housing already exists, Searles said.

According to Myrtle Terraces property manager Danette Wilbanks, about 60 applicants are on a waiting list, “with more being added daily.”

“I have had approximately 15 prospects in the last 60 days that I have referred to other communities because they needed something immediately and could not go on our wait list,” she added.

According to census figures, the number of residents 65 and older in Hall County has doubled since 2000, rising from 13,067 to an estimated 27,256.

Today, that age group makes up an estimated 14 percent of the county’s population.

And they are leading the growth in population.

The 65 and older population has grown 36 percent since 2010 while the overall population has grown just 7.7 percent.

And when coupled with an affordable housing crunch, the demand for quality, low-income units is higher than ever.

More than half of all renters in Gainesville, for example, and about 30 percent of homeowners, are considered cost-burdened, paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing, according to census figures.

Rusty Ligon, Gainesville’s community development director, said the low-income housing tax credits are obtained through a competitive application process in which projects are scored based on certain criteria.

“A project occurring within an area that has a Community Revitalization Plan adds points to the application,” Ligon said. “However, the plan is not required ... to move forward with the project. It only adds points to their application.”

Searles said the application process is highly competitive, and winning or losing can make or break projects.

The Gainesville Housing Authority, for example, is only able to redevelop the Atlanta Street public housing complex in Gainesville with the assistance of some $10 million in tax credits.

Searles said that even with council authorization by December, the next application window won’t come until June 2017.

So the earliest a phase two could open would be in the summer of 2019.

The clock is ticking.

“As shown in Atlanta, Savannah, Macon, etc., there is room and need for both the Housing Authority and private developers,” Searles said.

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