1. What sort of impact will this project have on the surrounding properties? Do you have any resources regarding this? Specifically, where is the data regarding surrounding property value in similar projects, as we have established there are multiple?
There has not been a multi-family development in Bay St. Louis since the post-Katrina builds. At that time, property values were very unstable due to the storm. The last development built in Bay St. Louis was on Carroll Avenue. It’s 132 units, 3 stories, and accepts Section 8. Property values have increased since that time. There is no evidence that building apartments on commercial land adjacent to a neighborhood devalues property when the site is well kept.
2. Will the veterans be responsible for rent and utilities. What is the actual stipulation? Income-based? Can a Veteran qualify for free housing?
The only way a Veteran could qualify for “free” housing would be if he or she received a VA housing voucher and had very low income. With a voucher, whether Section 8 or VA, the tenant must pay 30% of their income toward the rent and pay utilities. So, to live in Homefront, a Veteran would have to have income. Twenty-four of the thirty units are intended to be affordable for Veterans, so there is an income limit to live in those units. The household income for those units cannot exceed 50% of AMI (so about 25,000 a year for two people). The other six units are market rate meaning any income level can live there.
Because this development includes grant funding in the construction costs and will be owned by a nonprofit, it will allow Homefront to set the rents at an affordable rate for those that qualify, but everyone will have to pay rent and utilities.
3. Mississippi has one of the lowest homeless veteran rates in the country. Can you provide any data that supports there is a need in our community for this?
The only county-level data for this would come from HRC because we are the only housing agency in the county. There is probably more information for the coast in general. We worked with 225 Veterans in our housing and employment programs over the last year. More than 60 needed help finding housing that they could afford. Mississippi, especially the Coast, has one of the best records in the country for providing housing opportunities for Veterans and that is why we have one of the lowest homeless Veterans rates. But, we have to keep up with demand for housing.
4. Will applicants be required to pass a background check? What are the requirements for applicants, if any? Is it strictly limited to Veterans?
There are screening requirements that include a background check. Veterans or active/reserve military. The complex manager and on-site security may not be a Veteran, although those positions would be Veteran preferred. Security could be local law enforcement. There are also case-by-case situations. For example, if a Veteran passes away, we will not require the spouse to move.
Preference will be to Veterans and active military, but if someone that is eligible to live in one of the units filed a complaint with HUD, we would have to let them live there. But, that person would have a clean background, income to pay rent, and be otherwise qualified to live there so there is no reason to believe there would be an issue with non-Veterans. Again, the intention is to develop housing for Veterans.
5. What will lease terms look like? Will there be a constant turnover with new applicants coming every 12-24 months? Is this a long term housing agreement?
As with all rental housing, lease terms will be 12 months. Very few leases are longer than that. It would be our goal to retain residents that are good neighbors and honor their lease requirements, but we would also enforce the lease requirements and not retain those that do not. This is not a shelter, short-term, or transitional housing. It is permanent housing.
6. What is the financial plan for upkeep on a large scale property such as this? How do we know it won't run out of funding in 5-10 years and become dilapidated?
Because HRC/Homefront is a nonprofit, any profits will be rolled back into the development to continually improve it. This will be built with a grant from Federal Home Loan Bank and Mississippi Home Corp, a commercial loan, and funds from Renaissance Community Loan fund. All of those grants have a period of compliance and during that time (twenty years), the Site is required to be kept in good condition and is inspected. There are programs through these same funders to get a grant and renovate when that is needed. HRC currently uses these funds to rehab single family homes and is very familiar with how to use them.
7. Who is in charge for approval of the development? How did it pass without any input from taxpayers? What do you mean by "right to build"?
The property is zoned for this kind of development so it can be built “by right”. If the property was zoned residential, the builder would have to ask for special permission. However, we would not try to build in an area zoned residential. The city must approve the site plan but if the site plan meets the requirements set forth by the city, it should be approved. The site plan that includes a parking variance and unit size variance (for 6 units 611 SF instead of 750SF) is being presented to Planning and Zoning.
8. Can taxpayers stop this from being built?
No. The property has been purchased and the Financing secured. If the variances aren’t granted, the site plan will have to be modified, but the apartment complex will still be built.
9. You mention that the location is prime because it is nearby the hospital. Wouldn't it be more financially beneficial for Veterans to receive healthcare through the VA System?
There are some Veterans that are not eligible for VA healthcare. There is also a new rule that was put into effect by Trump that allows Veterans to seek care in their community and simplifies the process. The staff that works with veterans includes a Healthcare Navigator. Her job includes coordinating healthcare services for veterans in the community, whether VA or other. She would be available to Homefront Veterans to assist with this. Because HRC has a relationship with the VA, we can arrange regular transportation to and from the VA to help Veterans that do receive VA Healthcare get what they need.