New complex helps working class
Published: Tuesday, January 27, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 27, 2004 at 1:02 a.m.
LAKE CITY - On Monday, a ribbon cutting ceremony was held at a new apartment complex that is offering 332 working-class families a chance to have 5 percent of their rent returned to help them buy a home of their own.
A public-private partnership was used to build the $23.7 million Windsong Apartment community about a mile southeast of the intersection of U.S. 90 and Interstate 75. The one- to three-bedroom apartments on the 23-acre site range in size from 685 square feet to 1,144 square feet with rents ranging between $237 and $497 based on family income. At least 50 apartments have been set aside for families with incomes that are 35 percent or more below the area's median income, which is $15,085 for a family of four.
The need for affordable housing in the region has been growing rapidly, according to Jim Poole, executive director of the Lake City-Columbia County Chamber of Commerce.
"Our population has increased 50 percent over the last 12 years to about 60,000 in the county and 12,500 in Lake City," Poole said.
Pamela Duncan, director of the Fannie Mae's North Florida Partnership Office, which helped finance the project, said residents who live at Windsong for at least two years, pay their rent on time and do not violate any of their lease terms will be eligible for a 5 percent refund of their rent toward the purchase of their own home.
"This is the way the world ought to work," said U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, a keynote speaker at the Monday afternoon ribbon cutting.
Residents like Harry Patterson agreed. The 64-year-old disabled veteran said living at Windsong means living in a community that wants its residents to succeed in life.
"We have speakers in here all the time explaining how to get a mortgage and how to keep up your credit and what it takes to buy a home," Patterson said.
Neil Whiley, administrator of Shands at Lake Shore, said Windsong is the type of housing the area has needed for a long time.
"We haven't had affordable housing like this that I can remember," Whiley said. "The low-income apartments here are probably 30 years old and other than that, people with lower incomes had to work something out with their family or maybe live in some parts of town that were not that nice."
In addition to offering a nice place to live and financial help with home ownership, 30-year veteran Florida Department of Law Enforcement Officer Bill Gootee said Windsong was offering something many families want - a sense of community. Gootee was among the 100 or so people who attended the ribbon cutting.
"This is becoming a close-knit community with neighbor helping neighbor and that's what you need to have a safe neighborhood - people watching out for each other," Gootee said.
Karen Voyles can be reached at (352) 486-5058 or email@example.com.
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