GHA considers putting 400 Building up for sale because of debt


Published: Thursday, October 25, 2012 at 12:47 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 25, 2012 at 12:47 p.m.

Since 2000, Zach Andrews has called the Gainesville Housing Authority's 400 Building home.

Facts

If you go

What: Gainesville Housing Authority special meeting on the 400 Building
When: 1:30 p.m. Nov. 1
Where: Gainesville Housing Authority offices, 1900 SE Fourth St.

Disabled from polio and struggling with post-polio syndrome, Andrews, 58, is wheelchair-bound. He says the building's location just west of downtown on Northwest First Avenue offers ready access to buses so he can get around town.

He likes the building's management, its maintenance staff and the other residents. He says the housing authority has a strong track record when it comes to providing housing for the disabled.

Still, Andrews is concerned about what the future might hold for the building's approximately 100 residents, many of whom are disabled or senior citizens.

Facing significant financial issues in general and with the 400 Building in particular, the GHA is considering putting the building up for sale.

Should that happen, displaced residents would receive vouchers to continue receiving rental assistance and financial assistance with moving expenses, GHA Executive Director Pamela Davis said this week.

Andrews said some residents now are sitting in a state of limbo and uncertainty over the possibility of finding another apartment. And others do not yet know of the possible sale, he said.

"You've got some here that, if they were put out, it would be like, ‘What do I do now? Where do I go?'?" Andrews said.

The financial issues looming over the building include a past-due $1.2 million payment on a mortgage loan from M&S Bank. The payment was due in late August, but the bank granted a 90-day extension until November.

Another extension is possible, but the bank wants to see the not-yet-completed GHA audit for the past fiscal year before making that decision, GHA officials said at Tuesday's board meeting.

In addition, the building has run at a loss three of the past four years, with the total deficit for that time approaching $600,000. GHA moved close to $500,000 from another program to cover costs at the building and also has to repay that. Significant repairs also are needed.

Davis said GHA tried to refinance its outstanding loan with about 17 banks and has, so far, found no takers.

"The bottom line is we don't know how to save the 400 Building at this point in time," GHA Commissioner Arthur Stockwell said during Tuesday's meeting.

At the same time, an appraisal put the building's value at $3.4 million. If it could be sold at that amount, GHA could cover its debts and have money for development of future affordable housing projects, according to a staff analysis.

It remains to be seen if the GHA board would go that route. Commissioners Evelyn Foxx and Jane Morris both resisted talk of a potential sale at Tuesday's meeting. When board members voted 3-1 to have real estate brokers — at no charge to GHA — bring back estimates of the building's sale value, Foxx dissented.

And Morris, the current board chair, is also a resident of the 400 Building.

She said many of the residents are a close-knit group who have come to rely on one another. She also said there are elderly residents who have lived there for decades.

"A lot of people in their 80s and 90s have lived there for 30 years," Morris said. "We want to find a way to save it."

This is not the first time a cloud of uncertainty has hung over the residents of the 400 Building.

In early 2010, GHA came close to requiring that all residents under 62 move elsewhere to meet a federal requirement dating back to 1979 that the building be used for elderly housing.

The GHA board will hold a special meeting to continue discussions of the future for the 400 Building at 1:30 p.m. on Nov. 1.

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