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By Robert Connors
Managing Editor 

CRA Sale of Five Lots May Induce Construction of Ten New Affordable Housing Units

Northwest Neighborhood Program Leading to Rise in Property Values

 

Last updated 6/11/2023 at 2:44pm

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City Manager James Slaton lauded the progress the CRA has achieved in their ongoing housing improvement efforts in the Northwest Neighborhood, which is now drawing considerable private-sector investment.

The sale of five lots owned by the Lake Wales Community Redevelopment Agency will spur the development of new affordable housing for workers and retirees.

An agreement for the sale of the five properties for a total of $34,157.00 to Florida Development Corp, Inc. (FDC) will allow the company to develop five two-bedroom rental units on the lots, located on Sessoms Avenue, D and E Streets.

Although a staff report lists the units as having a single bathroom each, an attached floor plan appears to depict two bathrooms in each unit. No explanation for the discrepancy was available.

The CRA board is expected to approve the sale at Wednesday's meeting.

The effort to build new housing in the Northwest Neighborhood, initiated by the CRA, has sparked considerable private-sector investment, according to City Manager James Slaton, who explained that before that investment, "the private sector couldn't get comps" to obtain bank financing. Comparable sales now exist, so private lenders are stepping forward to offer mortgages in the area.

The revitalization effort is one of the goals of the Lake Wales Connected plan, which also calls for new sidewalks and hundreds of street trees to improve and beautify the area.

Slaton said that the CRA is "technically conducting four different programs" to stimulate investment in the Northwest Neighborhood, including a "legacy housing" improvement program that has repaired or, in one case, completely replaced, 14 homes.

"We're getting a lot of county money in a lot of these deals," Slaton added.

Slaton told LakeWalesNews.net that the program has produced a "40 percent year over year increase" in tax revenue for the CRA in the neighborhood. The biggest challenge, he added, is keeping the units in the "affordable" housing category, meaning that they can serve people who earn no more that 120 percent of median area income.

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Florida Development Corporation CEO Derrick Blue has led a partnership with the Lake Wales CRA that includes multiple projects. Most significant is a business incubator to which the CRA is pledging $1.2 million.

FDC has partnered with the CRA on other projects, and recently completed construction of a single-family residence B Street. They also have an agreement to develop a two-story mixed use commercial and residential building on Lincoln Avenue, called the LINC Plaza, as well as remodel a two-story building across the street that will house BizLink, a business incubator. Both projects have received significant CRA support, including a pledge of $1.2 million in support over three years toward BizLink.

FDC is described as having experience in "over 60 years of collective experience in affordable housing development, community & economic development, weatherization, financial and project management."

Past projects conducted by the Tampa-based firm include "numerous new construction homes, multi family, weatherization and single-family rehabilitation projects, and an adaptive reuse of a commercial building for a PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) manufacturing company," according to documents prepared by CRA staff.

According to staff, "FDC has provided services to municipalities and nonprofit organizations in Hillsborough, Pasco, Polk and Orange Counties."

 

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