Friday, June 22, 2018
News Roundup

Brooksville Housing Authority looks to auction off subsidized apartment complexes

BROOKSVILLE — Federal officials like the idea of moving residents out of the Brooksville Housing Authority's two aging subsidized apartment complexes.

The authority board, though, has decided that razing Summit Villas and Hillside Estates and selling the vacant land is probably not possible.

The problem: The authority can't afford the estimated $1 million bill to take the wrecking ball to both complexes, and there is likely no money available from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The cost of demolition might be more than the properties are worth as they stand right now, said housing board Chairman Randy Woodruff.

The goal will be to unload the properties quickly, Woodruff said.

"That pretty much leaves us with public auction as our only option," he said.

After consulting with HUD officials, the board is amending its demolition application to reflect that strategy. The part of the application that seeks funding for Section 8 vouchers for residents to use toward the cost of other housing remains unchanged. The application must be approved before residents can begin to move.

"That's going to happen," Woodruff said. "That needs to happen."

Woodruff said he is hopeful that residents will be redeeming vouchers and starting to move by mid summer, though he emphasized that's based on his assessment — and some level of optimism — and not a timetable from HUD.

"Under federal law, upon approval of the disposition application and funding, families will be provided with relocation to other comparable housing," HUD spokeswoman Gloria Shanahan told the Tampa Bay Times in an email. "No families will be directed to move out at their expense with no alternate housing."

That has been the message from board members to residents all along: Moving is inconvenient, but they will ultimately wind up with better housing. Still, the plan has sparked an outcry from residents who don't want to be uprooted. Some of those most concerned live in Summit Villas, a complex of single-story apartment buildings occupied mainly by tenants who are elderly, disabled or both.

The board voted in the summer of 2010 to start the application process after an architectural study concluded that repairing and modernizing both of the apartment complexes — comprised of 126 total units in 52 residential buildings, all built in the early 1970s — would cost a little more than $17 million. The demolition estimate came in at $1.1 million.

The authority is securing appraisals for both properties, and board members say they expect the value to come in well below what the Hernando County Property Appraiser's Office says the buildings and land are worth.

Hillside Estates sits on a 22-acre, triangular-shaped parcel between U.S. 41 and the Good Neighbor Trail, just east of the now-shuttered Rogers Christmas House Village. The eastern half of the property is wooded and undeveloped. The buildings are valued at $1.8 million, and the land is worth $316,246, according to the county property appraiser.

Summit Villas sits on 2 acres in the 500 block Dr. M.L. King Jr. Boulevard, west of Hale Avenue. The land is valued at $83,790, and the three apartment buildings and associated features at $549,312, property records show.

Both parcels are zoned for multifamily residential use, and both are in the Brooksville/Hernando Enterprise Zone, an area targeted for revitalization. Businesses that set up shop there could qualify for tax incentives.

City housing board member Gary Schraut, who has worked as a Realtor in Hernando County for the last 25 years, said the properties would almost certainly be more valuable as vacant land, and he expects appraisals will show that.

"Those structures are a liability, not an asset," he said.

The prospect of putting the properties on the auction block worries City Council member Lara Bradburn.

There's no guarantee that the buyer would have the financial wherewithal to raze the buildings and invest in the property, Bradburn said. Left to sit vacant, the buildings could descend into dangerous blight like Brook Villas, a vacant apartment complex just east of Hillside Estates.

"Definitely that's a concern," Bradburn said, "and also that someone would come in and use it for another subsidized housing unit, particularly people who aren't willing to put in the resources to make them quality housing units."

Bradburn has asked the city manager to invite housing board members to a meeting to talk about the plans.

Woodruff acknowledged the element of the unknown in the auction process, but there doesn't seem to be another option.

"There's no money," he said.

Despite the lack of reserve funds, the agency is on firmer footing now than it has been in a decade. The lingering cloud over the agency was lifted last fall month when it officially shed the "troubled" designation it held for nine years. The finances are in order, the occupancy rate is high and the turnaround time between tenants is short, HUD officials have said.

Board members say the goal remains to dissolve the authority once residents move out and are settled in new homes and the properties are sold.

Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or [email protected]tampabay.com.

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