The Florida Housing Finance Corp. (FHFC) board unanimously rejected a legal challenge on Wednesday that was stalling several affordable housing developments in Florida's most populous counties, including the planned redevelopment of 6.34 acres in Downtown Orlando known as "Parramore Oaks."
Tampa-based InVictus Development has applied for $21.3 million in Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) after winning the bid to redevelop the city-owned property in Parramore into 211 mixed-income residential units.
Several competing bidders, including American Residential Development (ARD) of Winter Park, filed objections and rules challenges accusing the FHFC of violating federal housing policy.
They also claim the deck was stacked in favor of projects that carried the endorsement of the local government, like InVictus' Parramore Oaks project, making it impossible to compete on an even playing field.
That's because the scoring policy awards a 10-point boost for the local government endorsement. Administrative Law Judge D.R. Alexander issued a recommended order on Jan. 25 rejecting the challenge, writing that the local government endorsement doesn't guarantee that a project will be selected for funding.
The board agreed, voting unanimously to dismiss the challenge.
"I think it says that the board is very confident in the (Request For Applications) and the terms and their ability to have issued it in the way it was issued," InVictus President Paula Rhodes told GrowthSpotter on Thursday. "That’s a good sign."
On Thursday, the FHFC staff opened the seals on the tax credit applications and began the scoring process, spokeswoman Cecka Rose Green said.
"We will continue with the scoring and award process until such time as any further action needs to be taken as a result of any legal proceedings regarding this situation," she added.
The agency had originally intended to award the tax credits in late March, but now that decision is delayed until the board's May 5 meeting.
Attorney Craig Varn, who represents ARD, has already appealed Alexander's Jan. 17 order dismissing related rules challenges to the Fifth District Court of Appeal. He has 30 days to appeal the board's Feb. 22 vote to the same court.
Rhodes said Varn could have asked the board for a stay that would have kept the process on hold until the Fifth District Court rules. "They didn’t even try to get a stay, based on the 7-0 vote against them. I think they assumed the stay would not be granted," she said.
The Clerk of Court notified all parties that the case may be sent to mediation. Rhodes said she doesn't see that as a viable option.
"I’m not sure what kind of middle ground you can find when they say this was issued in violation of the rules," she said. "Either it is or it isn’t – and if it is, then you have to redo it. So I don’t see mediation working."