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IAVF buys apartment complex in New Orleans

By Staff | May 2, 2017

A Cape Coral-based organization is investing in affordable housing for U.S. veterans.

The Invest in America’s Veterans Foundation, which started the Southwest Florida Military Museum & Library, has been applying for tax-free affordable housing bonds to secure funding for the program. It recently was issued $19 million to buy and renovate The Cove complex in New Orleans, Louisiana.

“We’ve been working on this for a little over a year,” Ralph Santillo, founder and president for the Invest in America’s Veterans Foundation, said on Tuesday. “This is the first property.”

Purchased for $17.5 million, The Cove is made up of 300 apartment units. About a week ago, the foundation began renovations, including bringing certain items up to the current building codes.

Santillo estimated that all of the work should be finished in a couple weeks.

“There’s nothing major here,” he said. “It’s mostly cosmetic.”

Santillo explained that all of the units are rented, but as they become available – when tenants decide not to renew – then the foundation will advertise the rentals through the various veterans’ networks.

“We hope, at some point, to have a list of potential available units,” he said.

“We’ll always give the veteran the first choice until he we reach our goal,” Santillo added.

The goal is to dedicate 20 percent of the total units on each property to veterans.

For The Cove, it means 60 units allocated for those who have served.

“Housing for veterans is a problem nationally. Thousands of veterans are homeless or near homelessness,” he said, explaining that the program offers an affordable solution for all.

“We can eliminate (rent) deposits, if we want to,” Santillo said. “We could house the veterans temporarily for nothing, if we wanted to – at a reduced rate, if we wanted to.”

Each property purchased under the program will also be retrofitted with a new veterans center, or common area. For The Cove, the foundation is renovating what once was an old storage area. About 900 square feet, the new center will feature a kitchen, a sitting area, counseling services and more.

“And an outside area, where we can bring veterans and their families,” he said.

Santillo noted that a playground is located next to the complex.

“We’ve got other major properties in the works,” he said.

There is a 444-unit property in Jacksonville.

“We expect to close on that property by the end of May,” Santillo said.

There are three properties in Winston-Salem, North Carolina; one property in Spartanburg, South Carolina; and three properties in Chicago. All of them are expected to close in June or July.

“Right now, all of those are under contract,” he said.

Asked where the idea came from for the program, Santillo explained that the foundation’s mission is helping veterans with anything and everything, but finding affordable housing is always an issue.

“We try to locate housing,” he said. “We weren’t able to really do anything in this area.”

As a result, the foundation came up with the idea of investing in properties. Santillo noted that the foundation was working with the city on its first property, but officials went in another direction.

“We’re getting real cooperation from the city politicians in these other areas,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll get that same cooperation in Cape Coral at some point.”

The program is set to acquire 3,500 in five states within the next six months.

“We’ve always had the intention of becoming national with the organization, as far as services and assistance for veterans,” Santillo said.

For more information, contact the IAVF Affordable Housing Department at 239-541-8704.