top story

Eight Years On, Venice Low-Income Housing Project Still on Hold

  • 0

VENICE, Fla. (WWSB)--The Venetian Walk community sits on part of the land that used to be Grover Terrace. In 2009, the low-income housing project was torn down after more than 30 years of use.

Mary Smith was one of its residents before it was torn down.

"I love where I live. I love where I live and I don't want to move. I want to stay right here," Smith told us in 2006 when she was 74-years-old, filling out job applications and worried she was going to have to move. "I need groceries in the house. I don't have a quarter left out of my check."

At the time, her social security check was only $500 a month. When her home of 30 years was torn down, she and the 400 others who lived there were given vouchers to go live elsewhere until their home could be rebuilt.

In 2014, Mary was able to move back into public housing with the completion of Venetian Walk--a low-income community exclusively for seniors. It was phase one of a two phase project to replace the old Grove Terrace. The second phase was meant to be for young families, but all this time later it still isn't complete.

"We're in the process of obtaining funding for Venetian Walk phase two which will be a 52-unit building of one, two and three bedroom apartments and it will be for any age," Venice Mayor John Holic said.

We wanted to find out who is ultimately responsible for getting the funding for the property. We contacted the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, HUD. They told use they don't control the property even if it is, in part, subsidized by them.

The project's funding has been hanging in the balance for 8 years. It works off a tax credit system. Venice has been applying for a 9% tax credit bond for $11 million. However, 113 other projects around the area have been applying for that same money.

"Only about 10 or 11 got those 9% credits. We weren't one. That's happened three years in a row so far," Holic said.

No one seems to be able to say with any certainty why Venice keeps getting skipped over for this bond. The issue is compounded by the wait, because every year Venice gets denied--the city loses money towards the project.

"Two years ago, because we didn't start building the project, some of the money that was committed to the project is being clawed back at the rate of $130,000 a year," Holic said.

For its part, the City Council moved  around in the next year's budget to go towards picking up the money that is lost. If too much goes the project could never happen.

While the governments debate about who gets the money, only a few hundred feet away from where this affordable housing complex is to be built is a homeless camp underneath the Venice Avenue bridge. A stark reminder how important the need is for affordable housing.