City commissioners have agreed to conditionally award the developer of a 48-unit LGBT-friendly affordable housing project up to $200,000 from the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund. 

Equality Park Ltd. requested the money to help bridge a $1.1 million funding gap. The entire project is expected to cost about $15 million. The developer is receiving $11.2 million in low income housing tax credits from Florida Housing Finance Corporation (FHFC), a FHFC loan of $550,000 and $955,866 in deferred development fees. 

According to the resolution, the county “will consider funding $900,000 of the gap funding if the city contributes $200,000 of the gap funding.” The combined total of the contributions equals the $1.1 million gap. 

The complex is slated for construction at 2040 N. Dixie Highway, where it will adjoin The Pride Center at Equality Park. 

Although several commissioners said the $200,000 sum was too high, all five commissioners voted on Sept. 25 in favor of a resolution authorizing the expenditure of $200,000 from the city’s Affordable Trust Fund. The fund contains $306,295. 

David J. Coviello, attorney for the developer, said the allocation allows Carrfour to move forward with the project. 

“While the $200,000 contribution is conditioned on Carrfour confirming the actual gap in funding once the project budget is established and is capped at $200,000, we are grateful for the City’s investment in this project,” Coviello said. 

According to a letter from Stephanie Berman, president/CEO of Equality Park, Ltd., construction will take about a year, starting in late 2018 and nearing completion in late 2019. Equality Park is a collaborative effort between the Pride Center and Carrfour, the developer of Equality Park, Ltd. 

Carrfour has recently partnered with the Jerome Golden Behavioral Health Center in West Palm Beach to develop a 36-unit project for adults living with mental illness. Carrfour is also partnering with The Key Clubhouse of South Florida in Miami to develop an 80-unit supportive housing project for adults living with mental illness, and with the South Brevard Sharing Center to develop an 80-unit supportive housing community for homeless families. 

Before voting on the issue, Commissioner Tom Green voiced concern about the $200,000 sum. 

“We were going to use some of this money to try to help first time homebuyers in Wilton Manors. That way you are investing in the city,” Green said. “Either I am going to try to amend that amount down or I am going to surprise some people and vote the whole matter down. That is too much money for the City of Wilton Manors.” 

Commissioner Scott Newton voiced similar concerns. 

“The project is great. I absolutely do want to give some of that money but would rather see it come in around $150,000 mark. You are not the only project that is going to come in front of us in the next 10-15 years,” Newton said. 

Mayor Gary Resnick said he wanted mandatory background checks for all employees added as a condition of the funding. 

Carrfour’s Berman has said all applicants for the affordable housing project will undergo a background check. Protecting children from sexual offenders become a hot topic in this city earlier this year after it became public that a registered sex offender was employed at The Pride Center at Equality Park for years. The man was subsequently arrested. A second sex offender, twice convicted, also worked at the Pride Center for three years before he was terminated in 2016, the South Florida Gay News recently learned

The facility has a playground that is frequented by children and will be in close proximity to the 48-unit affordable housing complex. The community center at 2040 N. Dixie Highway was built to provide same sex couples a place for their children to play. 

City commissioners are waiting to find out about possibly receiving a payment from Carrfour in lieu of taxes if some of the units are subject to tax abatement because 34 of the 48 units will be set aside for the disabled. They requested answers on or before Oct. 9.