Guest Column
Valor Preserve development in Seminole deserves community support | Column
This project will benefit the surrounding community and honor those who have given so much for our country.
The plot of land where the development of an affordable housing complex was proposed.
The plot of land where the development of an affordable housing complex was proposed. [ Photo courtesy of the City of Seminole. ]
Published June 10, 2022

It’s common knowledge that workforce and affordable housing are critical needs in our community. As home prices and rental rates continue to skyrocket, it’s becoming more and more challenging for many of our residents to find a quality, affordable place to call home.

Regina Booker
Regina Booker [ Provided ]

So it was especially disappointing in December (amazingly, on the 80th anniversary of Pearl Harbor) when the Seminole City Council rejected a proposed development agreement for Valor Preserve at Lake Seminole. Valor Preserve is a 64-unit affordable housing development that will serve disabled residents and military veterans.

The Pinellas County Housing Authority is co-developing Valor Preserve with Norstar Development USA, and the housing authority will own and manage the project after completion. Boley Centers will be the service coordinator for the disabled and veteran residents. With maximum rents of $733 for one-bedroom units and $877 for two-bedroom units, these residences will be within reach for many veterans who are being priced out of Pinellas County.

Unfortunately, the reasons given for the City Council’s “no” votes were largely based on public comments that included significant misconceptions about the project.

Now revised plans are submitted to the city, it’s important to correct these misconceptions so the community can understand what this development represents.

* Myth: Valor Preserve will be a crime-infested blight on the community.

* Fact: The housing authority already owns and manages more than 450 affordable housing units in Pinellas County, including three communities we co-developed with Norstar Development. The housing authority conducts an extensive vetting process for residents, and history shows that these communities do not have significant crime issues.

* Myth: Valor Preserve will house residents who don’t pay rent or contribute to the community.

* Fact: Valor Preserve will serve residents with income equal to or below 60% of the area median income, residents with a disabling condition, and military veterans. Disabled residents may receive vouchers to assist them, but all residents will pay rent and most will be part of the local workforce.

* Myth: Valor Preserve will negatively impact property values.

* Fact: Multiple studies have shown that affordable housing developments financed through the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit positively impact surrounding property values and revitalize low-income neighborhoods. A recent study by the Urban Institute compared home value trends from 2000 to 2020 and determined that these developments also produce a statistically significant increase in property values in higher-income neighborhoods.

* Myth: Valor Preserve will house people with drug addiction issues.

* Fact: A neighbor cited criminal statistics from a residential treatment facility that Boley Centers operates in south St. Petersburg. Those statistics are irrelevant here because that facility caters to residents struggling with drug addiction and therefore is not comparable to Valor Preserve. While Boley does provide those services elsewhere, its only involvement at Valor Preserve will be to identify and coordinate community resources for residents.

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* Myth: There is no local support for Valor Preserve in Seminole.

* Fact: The project has a wide range of support, particularly from affordable housing advocates and residents who believe we should honor our veterans by offering them an affordable place to live in our community. A number of residents, including military veterans, are supporting the project.

* Myth: This is not a good use for property along Lake Seminole.

* Fact: The housing authority acquired this property in 2013 to develop an affordable housing community to serve military veterans. The property fronts on Lake Seminole, is less than three miles from Bay Pines VA Hospital, and offers easy access to the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority bus line along Seminole Boulevard. Valor Preserve offers a unique opportunity to give our veterans a peaceful refuge that’s accessible to nearby services.

* Myth: Valor Preserve will be subsidized housing.

* Fact: Valor Preserve’s financial sources do not include any federal funds. The project is financed with Low-Income Housing Tax Credit equity secured from Raymond James Tax Credit Funds and an investment by TIAA Bank, a TIAA Bank construction loan, a Pinellas County SHIP loan and State Apartment Incentive Loan (SAIL) funds from the state’s Sadowski affordable housing fund, which is generated from documentary stamp taxes paid throughout Florida.

We hope to have the reworked development plan approved by the City of Seminole in the coming weeks. I join the Pinellas County Housing Authority’s commissioners — Angela Rouson, Alan Swartz, Michael Guju and Joseph Triolo — in saying that this project will benefit the surrounding community and honor those who have given so much for our country.

Regina Booker is interim executive director of the Pinellas County Housing Authority.