Wells Fargo Bank wants to foreclose on an old 180-unit low-income rental community that has been getting government aid for nearly two decades to keep prices low in Homestead.
It is unclear how the bank’s March 28 lawsuit will affect tenants at the Villa Biscayne of South Dade, 15350 SW 284th St., but the word “foreclosure” is already causing fear.
East of South Dixie Highway and north of the Coral Castle Museum, the property is nestled between a failed low-income housing project, a trailer park and housing for seniors. Quiwanna Bruton, manager of the nearby Modello Park, said most of the residents in the neighborhood couldn’t handle one more financial burden.
“Parents in this area have a hard time. We have a lot of single mothers who are struggling,” Bruton said. “There was another low-income housing project across the street that also closed.”
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If Wells Fargo Bank wins the lawsuit, millions in government funding meant to help the poor have access to affordable housing in Homestead through public and private partnerships with developers would be lost.
In the lawsuit, the bank also targets Villa Biscayne investor Joseph Chapman III, of Royal American Cos. in Panama City, which bills itself as one of the nation’s top affordable multifamily management companies.
Chapman is one of the many who have taken advantage of the U.S. Treasury’s low-income housing tax credit program, which provides investors with funding to develop, build and rent out apartments to low-income tenants.
In addition to $2.5 million it borrowed from Wells Fargo, Villa Biscayne borrowed $2.9 million from a state agency, the Florida Housing Finance Corp. The agency’s spokeswoman, Cecka Green, said Villa Biscayne has been getting low income housing tax credits since 1995. They saved about $990,000 in the first year.
The state loan — which has a June 1 maturity date extension — was modified in October.
Meanwhile, the tenants of the salmon pink colored buildings must have an annual income of less than $29,580 to qualify for rents that range from $750 to $955 for apartments ranging from 900 to 1,350 square feet.
“The people living here need help, the children need mentors and programs,” Bruton said. “They don’t need headaches.”
Both Wells Fargo and Chapman declined to comment on the lawsuit.