Four Jefferson City housing projects denied tax credits

Loud opposition to affordable housing may have cost Jefferson City $40 million in funding and possibly many more millions in future economic growth, according to developers.

The Missouri Housing Development Commission, which chooses who will get millions of dollars in tax credits, did not select any of four Jefferson City proposed housing projects as recipients during its meeting Friday morning.

Although commissioners declined to respond to reporters, it is believed they didn't consider Jefferson City projects after a group of letter writers and callers had expressed strong opposition to them.

Developments included: Eastland Hills Apartments, a 48-unit apartment complex in the 1800 block of East Miller Street; Stronghold Landing, a 40-unit apartment complex at Trade Center Parkway; and Oak Leaf Villas, made up of 42 duplexes in 21 buildings off Oak Leaf Drive.

A fourth project at Simonsen Place, a 72-unit apartment complex at 501 E. Miller St., was submitted shortly before the deadline.

Scoring is supposed to play a part in awarding the tax credits. Despite Stronghold receiving a top-three score out of 115 applications, it was not selected.

Lela Gruebel with Oak Leaf pointed out her project (only four points lower than Stronghold) also was denied the credits.

Priorities in scoring include categories, such as workforce housing, nonprofit connections, housing for veterans, housing for vulnerable populations, leveraged funding (such as disaster funding), transportation, neighborhood investments, economic integration and other factors.

"I am disappointed that Oak Leaf was not selected," Gruebel said. "I am shocked that nothing in Jefferson City got funded, considering there was (more than $7 million) in disaster funds set aside for Jefferson City to go along with this program.

"I don't know their reasoning."

She was one of four developers who proposed bringing affordable, multifamily housing units to the city.

Darin Preis, executive director of Columbia-based Central Missouri Community Action, said disappointment was putting his emotions mildly. CMCA serves eight Mid-Missouri counties, including Cole.

CMCA is a partner in the Stronghold development. Criteria for the tax credits showed that partnerships with area nonprofits benefited projects in the scoring system.

"If I lived in Jefferson City, I would be embarrassed by the positions that some local elected officials took," Preis said. "They single-handedly pushed back up to $40 million in housing money and job money."

The News Tribune will publish more responses from Preis, Gruebel and Eastland Hills developer Bo West, and from local nonprofits, in Sunday's newspaper.

Housing developments the commission approved across the state were posted shortly after a regular meeting Friday.

After the commission meeting, Mayor Carrie Tergin said she was informed by some commission members none of the four received funding and that opposition was the leading factor. Five of 10 council members voted 'no' last September during a meeting where applicants sought a resolution of support.

"I am extremely disappointed that no funding was allocated. I felt this was the time for us to qualify, because it was disaster-focused, and we lost more than 150 rentals in the tornado," she said.

Fulton, Columbia, Springfield and Sedalia were among cities where 33 applications received approval, as shown on the MHDC website for tax credits.

The credit can be used each year for 10 years and is allocated to developers who may then sell it to raise equity to construct or acquire and rehabilitate affordable rental housing.

The commission received letters and phone calls expressing dissent for the projects, which, Tergin said, is why other communities were chosen.

Three developers received a resolution of support from the city, but not before council members became divided and the September meeting got heated, lasting more than three hours. Five members voted for each resolution and five voted against, and Tergin broke the ties with an affirmative vote for each.

Council members Jack Deeken, Ron Fitzwater, Mark Schreiber, Scott Spencer and Derrick Spicer voted against the resolutions. Council members Jon Hensley, David Kemna, Mike Lester, Laura Ward and Erin Wiseman voted in favor.

Those who voted against resolutions of support said they felt slighted they hadn't been brought into conversations about the apartment complexes and duplexes. The developers proposed apartments on properties that didn't require zoning changes or any other consideration from council members. The Cole County Commission signed letters of support during a subsequent meeting without discussion.

COMING SUNDAY: Developers, nonprofit leaders devastated by Missouri Housing Development Commission’s decisions