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Gainesville is seeking the largest grant in its history. Here's how it may help affordable housing
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The City of Gainesville and Gainesville Nonprofit Development Foundation Inc. hold a ribbon cutting ceremony Wednesday, June 2, 2021, for the Davis Street Cottages. Five cottages at the site are part of the affordable housing options the city is supporting in the midtown area. - photo by Scott Rogers

The city of Gainesville could get its biggest grant in history, $10 million, to help affordable housing issues in the city. 

The city is applying for a Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds for Negative Economic Impact grant, which is funded through federal American Rescue Plan Act money and being given out through the governor’s office. The city would also match $200,000 of the grant funding to make their application more competitive, said Jessica Tullar, the city’s housing and special projects manager. 

It would be “the largest grant that I will have been involved in in my 21 years here,” Tullar told the Gainesville City Council at its work session on Thursday, Oct. 14.

Councilman George Wangemann said it would be the biggest grant he could remember in his 35 years with the city. 

The city is partnering with the Gainesville Housing Authority to apply for the grant, City Manager Bryan Lackey said. It is a fast turnaround before the application deadline on Oct. 31, and applicants are expected to get a decision as early as the end of 2021. 

This grant could allow the city to address needs for low income and even medium-income residents, Tullar said. 

“We have a missing middle, that 80-120 (percent of area median income) that also need housing,” she said. “We’re hopeful that this grant, if we’re successful with the housing authority, might be able to address some of that missing middle need.”

Typically the city is restricted in what kinds of housing it can provide and for whom it can provide it. For example, the six cottages the city built on Davis Street had to be sold to first-time homebuyers making 40-80% of the area median income, because they were built using Community Home Investment Program funds. Tullar said this $10 million grant could allow for more flexibility with what project they decide to do.

“Obviously a for-profit private builder is going to be able to charge the market rate,” she said. “Our programs or the housing authority we’re a little more restricted in income levels we can actually assist.”

Beth Brown, executive director of the Gainesville Housing Authority, said the city has an affordable housing “crisis,” that this grant money could help address. Officials from the city and the housing authority are still finalizing details on what the most beneficial projects would be, Brown said. 

“We are always working to try to identify opportunities to improve the supply of affordable housing,” Brown said. “We hope that this comes to fruition and is another successful project.”

The grant’s use would be restricted to areas defined in the 2020 census as economically distressed areas, Tullar said.