By YVETTE C. HAMMETT
Once a new low- income senior housing project started going vertical a few months back, the applications came in fast and furious. The government-funded apartments on Bloomingdale Avenue in Valrico were all leased out before construction was even completed.
While affordable senior housing is in high demand in Hillsborough County, it falls right in line with the demand for low income housing in all age brackets, said Affordable Housing Manager Terry Thomas.
Hillsborough County’s newest housing complex, Laburnum Gardens, is part of the solution to the problem of affordable senior housing. “We find the need is across the board in Hillsborough County and throughout the state,” Thomas said.
All 81 units at Laburnum Gardens are reserved for seniors with incomes at or below 60% of the area’s median income. To qualify for one of the units, the annual maximum income for prospective residents ranges from $18,760 to $40,140, depending on family size. The maximum monthly rent will run from $502 for a one-bedroom unit to $904 for a two-bedroom unit. Five of the units are designed for people with mobility challenges, and two are for those with hearing or vision disabilities. This particular apartment complex also has several amenities, including a clubhouse and community area, elevators in each building, a nature trail and shuffleboard court.
The county has been funding low-income projects like Laburnum Gardens since the early 1990s, Thomas said. “We receive federal funds and State Housing Initiative Partnership funds, or SHIP,” Thomas said. “Generally, we do two-to- three projects per year. While this one is for 55 and over, some are for singles and families in need. There is a great need for affordable housing here and all over,” he added. “The good thing about these units is they were funded with low income housing tax credits,” which come from the federal government. “That is a real positive.”
And it means the rent must be kept at a level for low-income renters. Low-income-housing tax credits are allocated to each state, and developers then apply for those funds to build affordable housing, based on the type of project the state wants built, Thomas explained. “Once the developer gets through permitting and starts construction, it will start setting up its management company and start taking applications.”
According to Thomas, these apartments are at full capacity. Laburnum Gardens, 1146 E. Bloomingdale Ave., was developed by Southport Development, Inc. and is partially funded by Hillsborough County. This kind of public-private partnership is becoming increasingly valuable as SHIP funding has significantly declined in recent years. For this one, Thomas said, the developer likely did a market study that showed the Valrico area was in great need of a senior housing project.
Hillsborough Organization for Progress and Equality, HOPE, is a local nonprofit made up of members from various churches in the county. HOPE members are pushing for social justice. According to HOPE, there are some 3,000 low-income seniors on a waiting list for basic services, like meals, light housekeeping and transportation for doctor appointments and to get them to the grocery store. Senior housing has been one of the big issues on the group’s agenda in recent years. Its members have urged the county commission to set aside $15 million each year for affordable senior projects. The county currently sets aside $5 million for senior housing.
For more information, visit the development’s website at www.apartments.com/laburnum-gardens-valrico-fl/de5nrxj/ or visit www.hillsboroughcounty.org/government/departments/affordable-housing to learn more about the county’s programs for low income housing, and add yourself to the “interested party” list for updates.