Housing Authority moves ahead on projects

Aug. 15, 2014 @ 08:48 PM

The departure of its executive director will not stop the Sanford Housing Authority from advancing on a number of projects in Lee and Harnett counties.

SHA Executive Director Ken Armstrong, who will be leaving the organization in December, said the ball is already rolling on a five-building complex that will consist of 84 residential units. The development will be located on Kelly Drive near Utley Plaza, a community also managed by the SHA.

"We're hoping to build with 9 percent tax credits," Armstrong said. "That means over a 10-year period, [the federal government] takes the total price [of construction], and they give 9 percent of that on a yearly basis. ... Then we sell them to banks or Progress Energy or something ... They get tax advantages, and [we] get the cash."

Armstrong said the housing authority would sell the credits at 80 cents on the dollar, which would pay for about 80 percent of construction costs.

"[The development] should generate not only construction jobs, but it would put together more affordable housing for the area, much needed affordable housing," Armstrong said. "On a property like that, we'd probably have working preference. You'd get preference if you're a working family. That encourages people to work. It's a good, affordable program."

The SHA plans to use project-based vouchers, vouchers that are tied to one specific property and cap residents' rent payments at 30 percent of family income, to fill 42 of the units, and the other 42 units will be full-rent units at affordable prices.

Armstrong said the SHA is in the final stages of development with plans to purchase the property by the end of the year and begin construction in early 2015.

"We have plans in place already done," Armstrong said. "We're moving along with it. It's just a matter now of getting the property secured and finishing up the tax credit applications by the end of the year."

Wilrik Hotel

According to Sanford Mayor Chet Mann, the Sanford Housing Authority's work on the Wilrik Hotel in downtown Sanford will be a great boon to the city in its revitalization efforts.

"I'm very excited the Sanford Housing Authority improved the Wilrik Hotel," Mann said. "It is a grand place, and it is a beautiful space inside. Any time you have something like that already in existence, it makes continuity of revitalization easier. ... It's a blessing to have that building beautified and occupied."

The SHA purchased the Wilrik Hotel eight months ago and began renovation work on the six-story structure. Armstrong said anyone who had not been in it since then wouldn't recognize it.

"We've completely remodeled that place," Armstrong said. "We've put in new kitchens, new HVA systems, we redid some of the flooring. We probably spent $50,000 on the remodel, and we kept the integrity of the building's history as well."

Sanford City Councilman Jimmy Haire, who serves as the SHA liaison to the city council, said the hotel's renovation turned an eyesore into a landmark.

"We're so lucky that big, huge building on Steele Street is not sitting there deteriorating," Haire said. "With the housing authority owning it, and with the excellent maintenance staff they have, they will keep it in excellent condition."

Armstrong said he believes the renovated hotel adds more than a beautified building to Sanford's downtown, though. He said it makes for a safer neighborhood as well.

"It was already housing down there," Armstrong said. "But there were a lot of issues. There was some crime going on [in the area]. We installed new cameras. We've been working with the [Sanford Police Department]. ... We've got it to a point where you go over there on the weekends, and it's as quiet as could be."

Harnett Training Center

Armstrong also mentioned the Harnett Training Center, a 35-unit community for elderly and handicapped citizens in Dunn, as one of the housing authority's projects in the works.

"It's just something we wanted to do for Harnett," Armstrong said. "We're the regional authority for both counties. They're in need of senior housing over there."

Armstrong said the facilities would be state-of-the-art and would be part of a complex that included daycare and other amenities. The Sanford Housing Authority will not be in control of the property but will provide 35 vouchers of the 741 it has to distribute between Lee and Harnett counties, to residents of the complex.

"They should start construction on that real soon, probably within the next month," Armstrong said. "The only thing we'll do is provide the project-based vouchers, and hopefully, we'll start managing the properties at some point as well."