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Wimauma apartment project gets okay

(ran NS, S editions of TAMPA BAY AND STATE)

Hillsborough County officials have recommended that a Wimauma project get the remainder of $2.2-million in U.S. Housing and Urban Development funds for farm worker housing. The plan is subject to County Commission approval Wednesday.

On Oct. 19, commissioners approved $1.2-million of the HUD package for developers of a farm worker apartment project in Ruskin. County officials then reviewed revised proposals for similar projects in Wimauma and Dover to determine which would get the remaining $1-million.

Wimauma Community, Ltd., which plans to build an 84-unit apartment complex, won over Catholic Charities, Diocese of St. Petersburg, which had proposed a complex of single-family farmworker rental homes at its San Jose Migrant Mission in Dover.

Wimauma developers shifted their proposed project from North and Fifth streets, just west of another affordable housing project, to 30 acres of farm land on W Lake Drive about a mile north of State Road 674. County officials did not want to concentrate low-income rental complexes together in one area, said Tom McMullen, project director for Wimauma Community, Ltd. Farm workers had lobbied the County Commission and signed petitions supporting the Wimauma project.

County officials remained hopeful, however, that the Catholic Charities proposal could still receive some new HUD money. Hector Perez, the county's affordable housing program director, said HUD representatives have expressed support for Hillsborough County's housing initiatives so far and that the county would ask Washington, D.C., officials for an additional $1-million for the Dover project.

All three projects planned to use the HUD money as leverage for low-interest loans to cover the total cost of construction.