Alachua County agrees to pay almost $3 million to Ability Housing, $1.8 million of which will go toward purchasing two lots
BY JENNIFER CABRERA
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – On Tuesday, May 9, the Alachua County Commission will vote on whether to accept a settlement agreement with Ability Housing that follows through on Commissioner Ken Cornell’s promise to “make them whole” after the board voted to withdraw their approval of $230,000 in local matching funds for the project.
History of the project
The Dogwood Village project was approved by the County Commission in September 2020 on a consent agenda, and the State Housing Finance Authority (HFA) approved a loan award of $460,000 in August 2021. The County Commission voted in September to provide $230,000 to the HFA as a local match toward the project costs of about $25 million. The project was intended for families under 60% of adjusted median income, also known as “workforce housing.” The bulk of the funding for the project came from the Florida Housing Finance Corporation (FHFC) through housing tax credit funds.
At the September meeting, the commission voted unanimously to approve the funds but also voted to send a letter asking that the project be relocated to a different property in Alachua County. Cornell put the project on the December 13 agenda because he wanted to reconsider that vote and Ability Housing had given the board a deadline of December 14 to make any changes.
On December 13, the board voted 3-2, with Commission Chair Anna Prizzia and Commissioner Mary Alford in dissent, to withdraw the funds. Ability Housing sent an email to Prizzia on December 29, stating that FHFC would not permit the relocation of the Dogwood Village development and would not grant any extensions. Ability Housing said they would need to return the award before January 27, leading to the loss of the project, unless the board reversed its decision. Ability Housing said in the letter that if the board did not reverse course, the company would have “no choice but to return the award and seek damages from the County for its decision to breach its commitment”; those damages were estimated at $15 million. The board voted 3-2 on January 10 to affirm their earlier decision to withdraw the local match funding. The motion from Cornell that eventually passed was to direct staff to negotiate with Ability Housing to purchase the two parcels because, Cornell said, “then we and the City can control what gets programmed there.”
At the December 13 Alachua County Commission meeting, Cornell said that he believed Ability Housing had spent $2.3 million and that he wanted to “[make] them whole. I don’t want Ability Housing to not be made whole at all. In fact, if they will work with us, I want to work with them on future projects.”
The agreement that will be considered is for the purpose of “resolving any and all filed or unfiled claims” related to the Dogwood Village projects and states that within two days after the contract is signed, the County will purchase the two parcels for $1.8 million ($1,152,000 for the northern parcel and $648,000 for the southern parcel). The two parcels are on SE 15th Street, to the west and south of the Heartwood project.
At the closing for the property, the County will give the closing agent $2,964,730.60, which includes the $1.8 million for the property. Anything left over after the expenses of the purchase will be turned over to Ability Housing.
The agreement further obligates Ability Housing and the County to “use good faith efforts to identify and work together on an affordable housing project in Alachua County, Florida, and to identify and work collaboratively to secure capital for development of the project.”
The vote on the settlement agreement will be taken during the County Commission’s 11:30 a.m. meeting on May 9.
Why be fiscally responsible? Better spend it while they can……the ‘cookie jar’ (GRU fund) is about to be snatched away
This was a county settlement to avoid a suit. Nothing to do with GRU to the best of my knowledge.
With the city of Gainesville in financial distress this may not be t gf e best decision. All we need is another Carver Gardens being built. We known how that affordable housing nightmare has gone.
It’s the county, not city.
Gvl City and Alach county have no business being involved in housing development projects. Their involvement is just a recipe for graft, corruption and incompetence that ends up draining the public til into the pockets of . . . well, you know.
For many years, the AC BOCC hasn’t given a rats a$$ what they do with taxpayer’s money (go back 15 – 20 years) as long as they can buy swampland and call it protecting the environment, or how to kill cows locally!
Fix a road? Only in the GNV city limits where they live!
They disregard any intelligent advice about contracting and go with their personal agendas!
Cornell is taking good care of his fellow real estate cronies.
Future crime breeding farms. Payback for all the lawyers and Povery NGO campaign donors. Fact 🍦🍦🍦🍦🤡👹
Let me see if I have this correct. Because the BOCC refused to pay an agreed contract $230,000 because of political correctness, we the people are now on the hook for about $3,000,000? Is this correct?
Will Uncle Tom’s cabin be on a cul-de-sac?
What a COMPLETE WASTE of MY MONEY!!!! 😫💰
Wow more affordable housing isn’t needed this city needs something to create revenue. The county should use these funds too inventive a business. to move in in the old Save a lot on Hawthorne road. This county and city would benefit more with a grocery store.
Grocers cannot make a profit in shoplifter voter districts.
Cornell Caved like , well you know, as Little Kenny always does. Clones of the failed and fired City Commission.
Yeah… answer is spend our money because it the right thing to do 🙁 Incompetence, definition of BOCC and GVL CC.
The real question is, are these “affordable housing” really going to be affordable for the working class because these rent prices are insane!