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Glenwood Apartments are among the complexes slated to be rehabilitated through the proposal.
Photo courtesy Google Maps
Glenwood Apartments are among the complexes slated to be rehabilitated through the proposal.

Council tables multimillion-dollar bond vote

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Last edited  4:57 p.m., Oct. 21, 2020

Springfield City Council last night voted to table a resolution calling on a multimillion-dollar bond issuance for a multisite affordable housing project.

Council members voted 7-2 in favor of postponing the bill until its Nov. 2 meeting after members of the Springfield Tenants Unite organization raised concerns about the use of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Rental Assistance Demonstration program for the project. RAD, according to HUD’s website, gives public housing authorities the ability to leverage public and private debt and equity for the improvement of public housing properties.

“This is a tool that was created by HUD to find a way to finance refurbishment of existing public housing facilities,” Springfield Economic Development Director Sarah Kerner told council.

Keystone Family Homes, a partnership between BGC Advantage LLC and the Springfield Housing Authority, is seeking up to $22 million in housing revenue bonds from the city of Springfield’s Industrial Development Authority. The money would be used to finance the renovation of 297 multifamily housing units for low- and moderate-income individuals – including 85 buildings and single-family homes and duplexes scattered across Springfield, according to city documents. The properties include Glenwood Apartments at 722 E. Glenwood St., Cedarbrook Apartments at 811 N. Cedarbrook Ave. and Dogwood Apartments at West Madison Street and South Campbell Avenue, according to past reporting.

“Bonds issued by the IDA are not debts of the city and the city is not liable to pay it back,” said Kerner.

During the meeting, multiple advocates from members of Springfield Tenants Unite asked council to postpone their vote. According to their the group’s Facebook page, the group is a “grassroots, multiracial organization advocating for homeless and tenants’ rights throughout Springfield and its surrounding areas.” Springfield Tenants Unite also works with the Coalition to Protect Missouri Tenants.

Alice Barber with Springfield Tenants Unite outlined a list of demands she wanted to see met before a vote took place. Some of those demands included a universal design of the properties, transparency and accessible meeting times.

However, Housing Authority of Springfield CEO Katrena Wolfram said the organization has been communicative about the process since 2017.

“As you can tell by the evidence submitted with this bond, I have been very transparent with the residents,” said Wolfram. “With newsletters, public meetings – we have held a lot of public meetings – even with COVID, we have provided the mask, provided the sanitizer.”

Council members were conflicted about whether a vote should take place.

Councilperson Mike Schilling said while something should be done about the tenant complaints, a vote should take place on the bonds. Councilperson Andrew Lear said he did not know enough about the programs to alleviate the tenants’ concerns. He proposed to postpone the vote, saying he would like time to educate himself, as well as do outreach with the tenants on their concerns.

Councilperson Abe McGull also wanted to move forward with the vote but suggested HUD do some work to address the many issues of the tenants.

“I would strongly urge HUD do better public relations with their tenants because there is a lot of anxiety out there,” McGull said.

Wolfram said the group is working as a co-developer with Louisiana-based BGC Advantage.

“BGC has just done a lot of RAD deals across the country,” Wolfram said. “That’s why the board of directors and I chose them because of their expertise in this field.”

BGC Advantage principal and CEO Holly Knight said the group has more than 100 years of experience with affordable housing among their team members – including 65 RAD projects. Knight said city officials should consider the program an economic development opportunity. She said BGC Advantage used a National Association of Home Builders’ calculation to predict the project would create 481 construction jobs and 19 jobs post-construction.

Councilperson Craig Hosmer questioned the cost per unit of the project, which Knight said would be about $77,000. Knight said some of the building have extensive issues that need to be fixed.

“We will be doing hot water heaters … where we have to go underneath the building to renovate and address the sewer issues,” she said, also pointing to Americans with Disabilities Act improvements in the works.

Knight added the organizations hired Snyder Construction Group as the general contractor.

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