Affordable condo project planned on land trust in Tampa Westshore Business District

07/13/09 Seán Kinane
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One consequence of the current deep recession is a decline in new housing construction. But one condominium development aimed at low-income residents is on the horizon in Tampa’s Westshore business district.

Some funding for the 57-unit condo project comes from public sources, including the City of Tampa and the Florida Housing Finance Corporation. The land was donated by Hillsborough County and has become the county’s first land trust. Before he was elected to Tampa City Council, Council chair Thomas Scott served on the Hillsborough County Commission and the county’s Affordable Housing Task Force.

“It is a land trust that’s placed here so that they can continue to use the land. The land will always be owned by the City [of Tampa] and therefore the housing that’s built there will be there but the land is entrusted to the City – it stays there. People can come and they could buy the building or the units and live there. But it will always be a land trust in terms of keeping it there for the City and for affordable housing.”

The condo development known as Westshore Landings will be built near the corner of West Spruce Street and North Clark Street. Two- and three-bedroom units will cost between $96,000 and $127,000. Instead of owning the land outright, condo owners will hold a 99-year lease on the land and pay a small amount of rent to the community land trust – between $25 and $38 each month.

Ron Rotella is president of the Westshore Community Development Corporation: “There’s 57 units. … There’s 33 large 3 bedrooms. Then there are 12 2-[BRs] and 12 smaller 3-[BRs]. Every unit will have their own enclosed garage – that’s the ground floor structure – and then the units are on top of it.”

Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe says that in order for a community to create jobs, it has to have the workforce, “a great education system, but it also has to have affordable housing” available to people earning below the area median income, or AMI.

“We talked about affordable housing, remember, we’re talking about people who make approximately 80% of AMI, which for single individuals: $33,000. For a family you’re talking about $47,000. So these are working families. And also to have affordable condominiums which will be close to, what we believe soon, Mayor, will be our transit system: a wonderful transit system which is going to connect our downtown area, the Westshore shopping area, the airport, and at some point out to USF.”

43 of the units will go to those low-income families. But people of moderate income, up to 120% of AMI are eligible to apply for the remaining 14 units. That includes individuals making nearly $50,000 per year or $71,000 for a family of four. The state of Florida’s Community Workforce Housing Innovation Pilot Program (CWHIP) awarded the project $4 million.

Tampa Electric Company estimates that because of energy-efficient designs incorporated into Westshore Landings, a typical condo owner will save more than $300 per year. Chuck Black, president of Tampa Electric, says the condos will have energy-efficient natural gas appliances, high-efficiency heating and air conditioning, and solar water heaters.

“We’ve worked closely with Palm Harbor Homes to develop some real innovative energy-efficiency technology in these homes. One of the systems is a solar hot water heater system that’ll produce hot water for the family. At times when the hot water is used up at night when the solar is not available, it comes with a natural gas tank-less water heater as a backup, so it’s a very good combination of technologies.”

According to Black, the Florida Solar Research Center will monitor the amount of solar energy captured by the condos in order to understand how to apply the technology to commercial properties.

Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio calls Westshore Landings “a great project … right in the heart of the Westshore district.” The bulk of the City of Tampa’s state housing money goes toward revitalizing Central Park Village, a project that is now called Encore. But Westshore Landings are also receiving a large chunk of public money from Tampa.

“The city receives a certain amount of SHIP [State Housing Initiatives Partnership] funding … from the state and it goes specifically for housing projects. We dedicated [$1,050,000] towards this one project. … Last year we got $2.9 million in SHIP and now we’re down to about $250,000. You can really see where we’ve made a significant commitment to this one project by allocating a million dollars.”

Lisa Reeves is a real estate broker with the German firm Engel & Völkers who has been hired by the Westshore Development Group to sell the condo units. In order to get down-payment assistance from the City of Tampa, Reeves says a potential homeowner would have to raise one percent of the purchase price in cash.

“If they’re under 80% of the median income, which is like the $33,000 for a single person, they’re also eligible for Florida home loan Bank of Atlanta down payment assistance funds, which would cover their closing costs. And we’re thinking that we’re going to be receiving about 20% from the City of Tampa – that’s on the first-time homebuyer program. So with the 20% down on our smallest unit, which is a [2 BR 1.5 BA] with a one car garage, you’re looking at with their mortgage payment, their condo fee, the land-lease fee, and their escrow for taxes: $729.37.”

That amount does not include condo insurance - similar to renter’s insurance - which Reeves says is typically about $300 to $400 per year. Monthly payments for the largest condos - 3 bedroom, 2-and-a-half bath units with nearly 1400 square feet of living area - would be less than $1010, according to Reeves. If eligible buyers are available, owners could eventually sell their condos and make a profit of up to 25%.

“We are allowing for equity-build as well as since it is a true mortgage, you’ll be able to recapture the money that you put into the mortgage and then you’ll get a 3% equity on market increase. Not just on the money you put into it, but on the down-payment assistance that goes into it. So you get to recapture 3% off the total price of the unit.”

Reeves says she has received one completed application, and about ten people have begun the process. 75% of the units are to be sold before construction begins, which Reeves expects to be within next four months.

Westshore Landings

Westshore CDC

Tampa Electric Company

Florida Solar Research Center

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