Southside citizen’s advisory committee clashes with developer over affordable housing proposal

Committee members said developer Boulos’s plan to set rent for a three-bedroom at over $1,700 is too costly
Citizen's advisory committee holds discussion about new housing effort
Published: Jul. 10, 2023 at 10:47 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 12, 2023 at 7:06 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Members of Tallahassee’s Greater Frenchtown/Southside Citizen’s Advisory Committee clashed with Boulos President Hadi Boulos Monday night over plans to build new affordable housing.

The Tallahassee-based real estate developer presented a plan to the committee for a 23-unit apartment complex at the corner of West Seaboard Street and South Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. He asked the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) for about $1 million to help build it.

“It’s not just about trying to get CRA funding just because it’s free money,” Boulos told the committee. “I’m trying to get CRA funding to help people in this city.”

Boulos said he would target this housing toward people earning 80% of Tallahassee Area Median Income (AMI). The real estate leader said rent for a three-bedroom at the complex would be $1,787. Committee members said that’s too expensive.

“I’m retired and worked 35 years,” committee member Cheryl Collier-Brown said at Monday night’s meeting. “And I don’t know whether I could afford that $1,700 a month.”

Committee members proposed targeting people earning 60% of the AMI. That would bring rent down to $1,420 a month for a three-bedroom.

“We can look into that further,” Boulos said. “Or maybe find somewhere in the middle that’s comparable.”

Boulos said the apartment complex would be targeted toward young professionals, but committee members said they wanted to see more housing for working families. Committee Vice Chair LaRoderick McQueen said he wants to prevent the apartment complex from turning into student housing or leading to gentrification of the area.

“We understand that we know each domain developers needed to make to make money as well,” McQueen said. “And we also want to make sure we address the needs of our community first.”

Committee members went back and forth with Boulos for about an hour. Collier-Brown brought up a case from January of last year when Boulos was accused of increasing the prices for new homes already under contract and canceling contracts of those who refused to pay.

“Mrs. Collier-Brown, I’m here today to talk about the CRA,” Boulos said. “I truly appreciate your concern. I think we’ve moved on and passed on that issue, and I can guarantee you that we don’t have this issue.”

The committee did not make a recommendation Monday, but members asked Boulos to come back with a new proposal for them to consider. The committee will likely meet with Boulos again in September ahead of the CRA’s October meeting.

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