By Frank Lewis
Portsmouth City Council will be giving first reading Monday night to a resolution that would express full support to National Church Residences’ efforts to obtain Low Income Housing Tax Credits offered by the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, to rehabilitate Riverview Retirement Center on Second Street.
“There is a tax credit program through the state of Ohio where credits are given to do new construction, rehabilitation construction through this tax credit system,” Portsmouth Mayor Steve Sturgill said. “It is set up different this year from the state in that a local (government entity) could give one group priority points. Portsmouth could send in two or three points if they wanted to, but there would be more points given to the group that had the priority given by the city.”
Despite a warning from Sturgill at the last City Manager’s Conference session that he knew of another company that also wanted to apply for the same tax credits, Council voted to bring the resolution forward. Now Portsmouth City Manager Derek Allen has received the letter Sturgill was talking about.
The letter is from Anthony Elmore, representing Portsmouth Affordable Housing - Canon Court of Kentucky, known as Warbuck Development.
“At the suggestion of Mr. Steve Sturgill I have attempted to reach you by phone this week to discuss affordable housing opportunities within Portsmouth.”
Elmore said, “Our organization has worked with Community Action Organization of Scioto County, of which Steve has recently been appointed executive director, over the last two years to look for opportunities to bring new affordable housing to Scioto County. Last year we submitted an application for 40 new units just north of West Portsmouth in Rush Township. Unfortunately, Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA) did not accept the county’s housing plan that was necessary to receive all required points. This year, on behalf of Community Action, we would like to submit another application within the city limits of Portsmouth.”
Elmore said the proposal is for 32 family units at 425 Harmon St. He said the project would be income-restricted to qualify for tax credits from OHF. However, 100 percent of the rents would be paid by working families at or below 60 percent of the American Median Income.
Elmore said the company role in the development would be to assist Community Action in all financial, real estate development, construction and management endeavors necessary to operate the project according to the tax credit program. Community Action would own 51 percent of the general partnership interest of the development and have the right to purchase the project from the limited partner upon completion of the 15 year tax credit compliance period.
The tax credit application is due to OHFA by Feb. 20, 2014, and local priority designation is a necessity to be funded. That local priority designation would come in the form of an endorsement by Portsmouth City Council and the city manager, selecting one project over the other.
“I think we ought to hear both proposals, and then determine which one of them should get the priority points,” Sturgill said. “We’ve kind of got this backwards. I haven’t talked to the city manager this week but I do know that this other group has at least sent a letter and they will hopefully bring this forward on Monday. Then they will probably just have to have some type of discussion as to what we want to do with it.”
So Monday night, Council will have to make a decision as to how to handle the tax credit legislation in light of receiving the additional application.
“It was my understanding, based on the way we’d solicited and received those letters last year, that, as these groups would come in they would be brought to Council’s attention from the city manager’s office,” Sturgill said. “We really didn’t have anything in place to have these companies run this through the Economic Development Committee. But the one from the church group was run through there. I knew there was at least one other group interested and my concern is that whoever has the best opportunity to get funded for this state tax credit is probably going to have to have priority points. I guess my concern is how will we now try to determine actually what is the best proposal?”
Frank Lewis can be reached at 740-353-3101, Ext. 252, or on Twitter @FrankLewispdt.