Kissimmee to pick affordable housing provider for free land in March

Two local developers adept at dealing with Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTCs) have jumped at the offer to accept free land from the city of Kissimmee and Toho Water Authority, in exchange for building up to 400 affordable rental units less than a mile from downtown's Lakeview Park.

Birdsong Housing Partners and Wendover Housing Partners both submitted letters of interest last Friday for the 19 acres, and a selection committee composed of five city officials and TWA Executive Director Brian Wheeler met Wednesday to review the proposals.

Both submittals were so impressive the final decision could boil down to which firm can meet a tight timeline to submit their LIHTC application to the Florida Housing Finance Corp. in time for its spring funding cycle.

A Request for Letters of Interest (RFLOI) that Kissimmee issued in early February indicated plans to select a firm at its March 6 City Commission meeting. But the selection committee had enough outstanding questions they pushed the decision back to the March 20 meeting. 

That would give the winning firm only three weeks to apply for the tax credits. Purchasing Director Debbie Luke said she would reach out to both firms Thursday to find out if they could meet the timeline.

Wendover has financed, built and operated thousands of affordable rental and senior units in Florida and Georgia. The Altamonte Springs-based firm completed the 120-unit Wellington Park apartments in Apopka in 2017 utilizing LIHTCs for family/workforce housing.

They proposed a multi-phased approach for 360 units with 15 percent reserved for workforce (market rate) housing. Slocam Platts would be the project architect.

"They're incredibly experienced," Community Development Director Craig Holland said. "And Slocum Platts is always good to work with." 

Marketing Director Terry Cummins told GrowthSpotter Wendover communities are designed around a community garden. Other amenities would include a swimming pool, playground, gazebo and community clubhouse with a fitness area, computer lab and activity room with full kitchen. 

"We do a lot of activities with the kids -- we have after-school programs that are staffed by volunteers," Cummins said in an Aug. 2016 interview. "They get snacks and in the summer they can get free lunch (provided by the Florida Department of Agriculture)."

City Attorney Don Smallwood noted that Wendover had the fastest timeline for completion. "What they bring to the table is cap financing, which is impressive," he said. 

Birdsong and Kissimmee-based Titan Land Company are currently co-developing a pair of affordable communities in Osceola County's Bellalago area, near Valencia College's Poinciana campus. Steve Auger, former executive director of FHFC, is now with Birdsong and running point on the project.

Last year, Titan CEO Domingo Sanchez simultaneously applied for five potential sites in Osceola County, winning approval for two. 

"They've done tax credit projects all over the county," Holland said. "If there's one thing Domingo knows how to do, it's to get tax credit applications through the process."

However, the fact that Sanchez serves on the TWA board of directors gave some committee members pause. Wheeler wanted to confirm there would be no conflict because the utility would be contributing some of the land.

"It might be prudent for the city to take title to the property," Smallwood suggested.

Deputy City Manager Desiree Matthews suggested the committee tour communities both firms have developed in the Orlando area before making a recommendation to the commissioners. 

Hormac Civil Engineering Services, an Ecuadorian company with offices in Daytona Beach, also filed an LOI and proposed site plan but they were eliminated because the bid was determined to be incomplete.  

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407)420-6261, or tweet me at @LKinslerOGrowth. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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