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Low-cost housing front and center at workshop

By Staff | Mar 17, 2012

When the city council holds its workshop Monday night at City Hall, affordable housing will be at the top of the list of talking points.

Three consent items are on the agenda. They are:

– A $350,000 Redesignation Agreement for the 2012 Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) Grant Program between Cape Coral, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the Florida Department of Health.

– A Subrecipient Agreement State Housing Initiatives Partnership Program (SHIP) worth more than $300,000.

– The Neighborhood Stabilization Program Three (NSP3) Amendment to the Action Plan, which could mean millions more in funding on top of the $10 million its received since 2009.

The HOPWA program, which Cape Coral became eligible for in 2006, provides housing assistance and related supportive services for low income persons with HIV/AIDS and their families, according to Amy Yearsley, housing coordinator.

“We didn’t want decreased service. We look at it every year and the opportunity to administer to it as things change,” Yearsley said.

Cape Coral, as the most populous entitlement community in Lee County, is eligible to receive formula grant funding since it surpassed the 1,500 cumulative AIDS case threshold, the city therefore would be required to provide HOPWA funding countywide.

Cape Coral has entered into an agreement with HUD and the Department of Health for the funds to be administered at the State level, by the Department of Health.

The SHIP agreements refer to unallocated funds in the Local Housing Trust Fund, which Cape Coral put out in a grant cycle. Three applications were received, including two from the Cape Coral Housing Development Corporation (CCHDC).

Habitat for Humanity will get $125,874 dollars, while the CCHDC will get the same for acquisition rehabilitation and another $50,000 for owner-occupied rehabilitation.

The NSP was created in 2008 in response to the foreclosure crisis. Cape Coral received more than $10 million in funds between 2009 and 2011, which was considered ground zero of the foreclosure crisis.

“The idea was to stop the decline of our neighborhoods. They have us select areas for us to buy, foreclosure, sub-prime, and that expands our area for affordable housing,” Yearsley said.

The houses must be interspersed throughout the 122 miles of Cape Coral, not in one location. This, according to councilman Kevin McGrail, keeps Cape Coral from becoming like Co-op City in the Bronx with crime-riddled high-rises nobody appreciates.

“The Cape is not set up for congregated housing. It should be interspersed throughout the city,” McGrail said. “In the ’60s and ’70s we built high rises and gave houses to people who didn’t value them. If it’s free, it’s worth nothing.”

Among the requirements of NSP is that 25 percent of funding be set aside to those under 50 percent of median income. Yearsley said the money would be put to good use.

“We need to do a new building for NSP3 in South Cape,” Yearsley said, referring to a four-unit complex they plan to build and rent to low-income families.

This, McGrail said, gives the new owners motivation to maintain their properties and be proud that it’s theirs.

“They have the expectation to maintain their properties as their neighbors to prevent blight and keep property values up,” McGrail said. “The goal is to not have the ugly house on the block and to give the family a stake in the home.”