Warren County developer gets $9M via state affordable housing program

The Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA) has already awarded the developers of Hopkins Commons 10 years of income tax credits worth $6 million and $540,000 in loans. In March, the OHFA board is expected to add a $2.5 million loan to the project’s subsidies.

Hopkins Commons is one of 12 Miami Valley projects in the past five years that OHFA qualified for more than $60 million in tax credits, commonly sold to corporations to lower their income tax bills. The projects also qualified for $12.8 million in housing development loans and $2 million in other affordable housing development assistance, according to data provided by OHFA.

“Sometimes you have a bit of sticker shock,” said Bill Faith, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio. “We’re for the programs in general.”

During the past five years, the agency has backed projects in Dayton, Springfield, Troy, Hamilton, Germantown and Union through a variety of programs that assist developers building or upgrading affordable housing or willing to set aside some of the residences in their developments to people who would not otherwise be able to afford them.

Since 1986, the tax credits, provided through a federal government program, have financed more than 2.4 million affordable rental-housing units across the nation, according to the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

“It is really, really important,” said Bruce Rippe, developer of Hopkins Commons, which has committed to renting 33 of the new apartments to people living at 30 percent to 60 percent of the minimum median family income level.

“You could not afford to develop a project with private financing with the rents that are being charged,” Rippe said.

Warren County Community Services, a non-profit social service agency, has committed another $2 million to help pay for the project, also expected to include a restaurant, banquet center and senior center off Ohio 48, south of Lebanon in Hamilton Twp.

The local government has agreed to subsidize the cost of sidewalks connecting Hopkins Commons with an 800-home subdivision, an assisted living center and the nearby downtown area of the Village of Maineville.

Hopkins Commons would be the center of an “intergenerational community,” designed to leverage the potential of the full range of age groups and residents to enrich the quality of life for residents and visitors to the restaurant, banquet and senior centers, according to the developer. The residents would also be able to select from a menu of social services to be offered there.

“OHFA really wanted to do this project because of its innovation,” Rippe said.

Other projects benefiting from OHFA subsidies include two projects at Roosevelt Homes in Dayton, which received more than $15 million in assistance. The Dayton YWCA was also granted more than $4 million.

In Springfield, Tubman Towers received more than $11 million; Mulberry Terrace just under $7 million; while Windcliff Village in Germantown was granted almost $7 million.

Staunton Towers in Troy received more than $2.4 million in credits, a housing development loan of $2.2 million and $250,000 in low interest financing.

The Artspace Lofts in Hamilton were granted $619,026 in low income housing tax credits.

The tax credits awarded to Hopkins Commons — $6 million over 10 years — will be sold to City Real Estate Advisors, which will sell them to clients, typically companies interested in lowering their tax liabilities, Rippe said.

The $2.5 million loan to the company Rippe’s family set up for the development, JMB-HC Development, is interest-free for two years and charges only 2.5 percent in interest for up to 10 years.

Modern Real Estate Developers, another Rippe family company, will act as contractor.

“You have all these various players,” said Faith, former chairman of the National Low-Income Housing Coalition. “Every single one has some cost implication.”

The non-affordable housing portion of Hopkins Commons will be funded through private equity and other financing, according to Rippe.

While 127 tenants will be charged full market rates, 33 in one of the three buildings will be charged a lower rate based on their income, Rippe said.

Government oversight of compliance on meeting the affordable housing guidelines is complemented by reviews conducted by the investors, Rippe said.

“Believe me, it is well monitored,” he said.

Construction on Hopkins Commons is expected to begin in April or May, continuing the Rippe family’s development of what was originally about 400 acres.

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