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Tallahassee leaders celebrate opening of new affordable housing complex

Lafayette Gardens Apartments.jpg
Valerie Crowder
/
WFSU News
Lafayette Gardens, a new affordable housing complex in Tallahassee, was built with the help of $16 million in federal low-income housing tax credits. It received the credits in 2020 and began leasing units in 2022.

Affordable housing advocates in Tallahassee celebrated the opening of a new complex for low- and moderate-income residents during a ribbon-cutting event on Tuesday, months after the new units came online.

“This is beautiful housing," said City Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox. "It’s helping us reach our goal of more affordable housing, workforce housing and low-income housing in our community."

Lafayette Gardens offers residents a swimming pool, gym, dog park, community center and playground. Residents can even get help with managing their finances and finding a job.

“I’ve had some people come here and say, ‘I can’t believe I live here. It’s very fun," said Jozae Martin, a lease consultant at the complex. "They have a lot more for the children to do.’”

Located just off Apalachee Parkway, the new apartments are also within walking distance of several shops and restaurants.

Bicycle Rack Lafayette Gardens.jpg
Valerie Crowder
/
WFSU News
Affordable housing advocates and city leaders attend a ribbon cutting ceremony at Lafayette Gardens, a new complex for low- and moderate-income residents on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022.

The complex offers one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom apartments. Income-based monthly rent prices range from $389 — $1,112.

“We worry about getting the resources on the front-end to build something," said Matthew Rieger, president of Housing Trust Group, the developer that built the complex. "Once it’s built, it leases itself. Look at this product; look at this rent we’re charging."

Residents who earn 33% — 60% of the area's median household income may rent from the complex, which was financed with the help of $16 million in federal tax credits spread out over a decade.

“We take that allocation of credits. And on day one, turn that into equity to build an affordable-housing complex," Rieger said.

The Florida Housing Finance Corporation approved the federal low-income housing tax credits for Lafayette Gardens in 2020. About two years later, the complex was built and leasing units.

“This is one of the most effective tools that the United States government has in getting low-income housing put in," said Trey Price, president of the Florida Housing Finance Corporation, which distributes state and federal dollars for affordable housing to local communities.

Price says housing advocates are urging federal lawmakers to increase funding for the tax credits, an effort that has bipartisan support.

The affordable housing crisis is a problem nationwide, and Tallahassee needs about 7,000 new units for low-income residents to meet the local demand.

“We have so much property here that’s nontaxable because it’s a government town, it’s a university town and we have so much agriculture," said City Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox. "We do need an influx of federal dollars to help us to meet this demand and to meet this need.”

The city has put some funding into affordable housing, Williams-Cox said. For instance, the city helped fund the Orange Avenue Apartments, a low-income housing complex.

City leaders have also worked with developers to make it easier to create more housing stock for people living paycheck-to-paycheck.

"We look at opportunities to change ordinances to allow for barriers to be removed to allow private investors to come in to work with us to provide us with this affordable housing."

For instance, the city is allowing developers to convert former motels and office complexes into apartments to help build up the affordable housing stock, she said.

Some 2,300 affordable housing units are coming online in the city, and there are more expected to be built, she said.

"There are properties being prepared or being purchased right now to do some affordable housing on the South end of town."

Valerie Crowder hosts and produces state and local newscasts during All Things Considered. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.