Developer discusses Main Street housing project

By JOHNNIE DANIEL,

At last Tuesday's Franklinton Town Council meeting, Len Reeves spoke to the Board of Alderman and an overflow crowd of citizens interested in Quail Run, a project proposed by Reeves and his partners. Reeves stated that the Ridgewood Consulting Firm would like to build single-parent attached residential dwellings to provide affordable housing on a 10 acre tract of land at 1809 Main Street. If approved, Quail Run would be located across from Riverside Medical Center.
Before the project can begin, the Franklinton Board of Aldermen would have to change the zoning status of the desired property. The 1805 Main Street location is designated C-1 which is intended for light commercial use such as office buildings, drugstores and doctor's offices.
In order for the residential dwellings to be constructed, a special exception would have to be made that would zone the property as R-2. This is a designation for single-family residential attached and detached conventional homes. Reeves has met with the Town's Planning and Zoning Commission to explain the project to their board.
According to information given by Reeves at Tuesday's meeting, the overall project would consist of 20 duplex style buildings, extensive landscaping, lighted streets, two car garages, sidewalks, a community center with an exercise room, a three-quarter mile walking track and a playground.
He also stated that it would be a gated community with a manager on site at all times. Management of the property would be handled by Latter & Blum.
Advertised as providing affordable housing, public notices ran in The Era-Leader by the Ridgewood Consulting Firm described the project as a new construction LIHTC development with a community facility. Quail Run will target families, specifically single parent households, earning at or below 60% of the area median income including PSH eligible households. If the designation of the land is changed by the Board of Aldermen, the firm would begin competing for 9% tax credits provided by the Louisiana Housing Corporation. The average proposed costs would be $560 per month for the 39 three bedroom units and $250 a month for the lone two bedroom unit.
"Our residents pay their own rent, we don't have any operation subsidies," said Reeves. "We are not Section 8, we are not HUD Housing, we are not government housing. We are a unique type of development for people who have jobs, can pass a credit check, background check. It's the same way if you were buying a home or renting a home."
"We use a combination of tax credits and traditional debt to build our developments. I think everyone knows what traditional debt is, so I'll go back to tax credits. Every year every state in the country is allocated a certain amount of tax credits to go towards workforce housing, affordable housing. We compete with developers across the nation for these tax credits to build 9% new construction only tax credit developments. If we're lucky enough to receive one of these awards for tax credits, we go and sell the Town of Franklinton to investors that have a need for tax credits to offset their tax liabilities.
"Investors invest in us, they invest in the Town of Franklinton to help build this type of development. We use those dollars from private investors that are typically banks, insurance companies… If you bank with Regions, BankcorpSouth, Bank of America…they are all investors in this type of business. In return for our partnership with those investors, in return for our tax credit component for our construction cost, we agree to rent these developments to people who make at or below a certain median income level. Our average resident makes at or below 60% of the median income."
Reeves continued, "To talk numbers, this development is estimated to cost approximately $7.2 million. At 40 units, that's about $180,000 per unit. For those of you who don't have color copies, it should help you appreciate a development where one building would cost $360,000 to build. That's a very nice building."
Numerous people in the audience asked questions of Reeves as well as voicing their opinions on the project. Those in favor of the project cited the high cost of rental properties in Franklinton and terrible living conditions in other housing units in town. Opponents stated concerns of flooding in the area of 1809 Main Street. Residents who live close to the area said the land already floods after a hard rain and backs up near their property. Other concerns included the land was the only expansion area for Riverside Medical Center.
The first development completed by this firm is Murphy Lane in Holly Springs, Mississippi which was completed in approximately 2012. Murphy Lane is designated for those over 62 years of age or disabled citizens. Other developments include Greenwood Place in Cookeville, Tennessee, Beacon Hill in New Albany, Mississippi, and Belle River which is currently under development in Oxford, Mississippi.
The Planning and Zoning Commission did not present a recommendation to the Board of Aldermen after meeting with Reeves, so no action was taken on the project at Tuesday's meeting.