Developer offered to buy duplexes

Sunrise shows housing can be self-sufficient, even on the tax rolls

News editor

Before beginning work on a brand new project, Tom Bishop of Homestead Affordable Housing reached out to owners of the Sunrise Townhomes duplexes about buying the duplexes.

Lois Smith, who presides over the investor meetings, said the group has talked about selling the duplexes — provided they remained set aside for low-income senior citizens — but Bishop’s offer was too low to seriously consider.

Sunrise Townhomes opened in 1997 after Peggy Blackman approached investors about developing housing for senior citizens.

“We thought the town really needed it, and it did,” investor Marlin Buchholz said.

Federal tax credits helped investors recoup at least part of their costs. Smith said her tax credits basically matched her share of the loan payment during the first 10 years, and the tax credits continued for another five years after the loan was repaid. But some investors told her they didn’t get quite the same benefit from the tax credits.

“We did not get any breaks from the city, like they’re doing over there (for the Homestead project),” Smith said.

She said there are tight income guidelines for who can rent the duplexes, but at those income levels, it can be difficult for them to pay the rent. Because of that, Smith has approached three different mayors about getting an endorsement for the city to apply for rent assistance grants. The city has never provided so much as a letter of support, Smith said, and that frustrates her.

“I was surprised when I knew another complex was going to be built,” she said.

Smith said that since opening, the duplexes have stayed relatively full. There was never a vacancy in 2012, and they have averaged between 92 and 97 percent full over the past seven years, she said.

The Sunrise Townhomes have been self-supporting, even though they are taxed as a for-profit enterprise.

“Yes, we pay our property taxes,” Smith said.

Because they are regularly maintained and managed, the duplexes don’t require many major repairs, she said. She added that the renters do their part to keep the buildings in good shape.

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