NEW PORT RICHEY — Reversing a 2008 decision, county commissioners this week rejected granting $700,000 to the Ten Oaks affordable housing development in Zephyrhills.
The development, originally planned with a second location in West Pasco, would have provided subsidized homes to teachers, police officers and other public employees earning a modest salary.
Although they committed the money three years ago to qualify for a state grant, commissioners on Tuesday said the funding deal had changed and the housing crash gave Pasco plenty of affordable homes in most areas.
"I don't see the market conditions anywhere near that situation (in 2008)," said Commissioner Jack Mariano. "Everything here has changed, so I'm not comfortable moving forward."
Commissioners voted 4-0 to reject making the grant. Commissioner Ted Schrader abstained from the discussion and vote because his brother is a co-owner of Ten Oaks.
Commissioners felt the county money might be better directed toward the East and Central Pasco Habitat for Humanity, which has committed to build 50 homes in the depressed Lacoochee area. The money came from the federal government with the intent of stabilizing blighted neighborhoods.
"That entire corridor is ripe for business, industrial and commercial," said David Lambert, a spokesman for the Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative. "But one of the issues we've found with that area is substandard housing."
John Finnerty, president of the Habitat chapter, said his group is concentrating on a 14-block area in the middle of Lacoochee. The three-bedroom homes would be sold for $80,000, and the new owner would have to have a job and stable income.
In a memo to commissioners, Community Development director George Romagnoli noted that building homes in a relatively new subdivision like Ten Oaks "does not really stabilize neighborhoods hit hard by foreclosure."
The original plan called for $700,000 from the county, a land donation from the School Board and a $5 million grant from the state. The Legislature later rescinded that money. Ten Oaks and other winning applicants sued and got initial approval for half the original grant.
The county award was to come from a source of money that has since dried up. Also, the county would have had to nearly double the original grant to $1.3 million for the project to win final approval from the state.
County Attorney Jeff Steinsnyder said the board likely wouldn't face liability for changing its mind about the grant. "You're being asked for a different way to salvage this grant, and you don't have the money to do it," he said.