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Wednesday, Oct 17, 2018
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Another Tampa Bay agency loses tax credits worth millions in dispute over application error

LARGO — Another Tampa Bay housing agency has lost out on a multimillion dollar tax credit award because of problems with its application.

The Pinellas County Housing Authority was awarded a 10-year tax credit worth about $15.7 million in May to build 85 apartments for low-income seniors in Largo. But the Florida Housing Finance Corp. recently rescinded the award after an administrative judge recommended the agency be disqualified because of a "false statement" in its application.

The tax credits will instead go to American Residential Development, a Winter Park developer who filed the legal challenge. It plans to use the tax credits to build Madison Point, an 85-unit affordable housing complex in Clearwater.

Application errors also recently resulted in the Tampa Housing Authority losing out on a 10-year, $21 million tax credit for an affordable housing project in its West River development.

Both housing authorities say they may appeal the decisions in court.

The credits, which are awarded annually by the Florida Housing Finance Corp., are intended to create incentives to build affordable housing and are highly prized by developers. They can be sold to raise money for construction costs.

The Pinellas County Housing Authority wanted credits to help pay for the first phase of a revitalization of the Rainbow Village public housing complex alongside Washington Drive in Largo. The new development, known as Heritage Oaks, would only have consisted of new construction.

But an administrative law judge ruled that the application should have mentioned the existing Rainbow Village housing in a question about the "proposed development."

The application was compiled by the agency's development partner, Norstar Development USA. Officials there disagree with the judge's interpretation.

Since the project consists only of new construction and does not touch existing housing, Norstar's response was the correct one, said Brian Evjen, the firm's director of development.

He said the disqualification was for a minor irregularity and pointed out that the application form has since been amended.

"This is not an omission, it is a logical answer to the question asked," Evjen said in an email.

The Heritage Oaks project is now on hold pending the outcome of an appeal, he said.

The Tampa Housing Authority has instructed its legal staff to look into challenging its disqualification. It was initially awarded tax credits for the Boulevard at West River, a seven-story apartment complex that would have included 200 affordable housing units.

Appealing the disqualification could cost about $30,000, said Leroy Moore, the agency's chief operating officer.

"We wanted to first spend a few hours researching prior appeals to get a better gauge of whether it makes sense," he said.

Contact Christopher O'Donnell at [email protected] or (813) 226-3446.

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