The Maple Court Place apartment complex will not receive any project-based vouchers from the Goshen Housing Authority.
At least not for now.
The issue was discussed at the Tuesday morning meeting of the Housing Authority’s board of commissioners, when representatives of project developer Englewood Development Company came to talk about their request in person.
The proposed 60-unit, four-acre complex, to be located at 2932 Elkhart Road, was the brainchild of former housing authority Director Bob Brenneman and Englewood, which is based in Indianapolis. From its inception in 2006, Brenneman promised the complex would receive 24 project-based vouchers from the agency, renewing the promise each year via a letter to the company that Development Director Bonnie Westphal signed off on. Currently, Englewood Development is both the developer and the owner of the project.
At Tuesday’s meeting, two main questions were posed by board members and attendees — was the project the wrong idea at the wrong time during a depressed housing market and could the Housing Authority afford to promise the vouchers in the first place?
According to Brian Pozen, development associate for Englewood Development, the purpose of obtaining the vouchers was to make a majority of the units available to people with the lowest levels of income.
“We think there’s a market for those,” Pozen said. “All the others are full.”
He also said a market study completed through another organization shows demand for rental units in the area because units are full.
Different point of view
LaCasa, Inc. President Larry Gautsche and GT Properties Property Manager Cathy Hoogenboom attended the meeting to share their disagreement with Pozen and Englewood Development’s point of view. Both said the market is not what Englewood Development’s market study makes it out to be and that their companies have had to offer significant concessions to renters in order to keep them in the units they are already in.
“Just because a project is leased doesn’t mean it’s sustainable,” Gautsche said.
Adding 60 additional units, according to Gautsche, would put additional stress on the market. He also argued against Pozen’s statement that LaCasa’s main work was in homes and that such units weren’t applicable to their study. He said Goshen currently has an oversupply of single-family rental housing, which he believes is what many of the homes in town that are not rentals now will become due to a lack of buyers.
“It’s better than it was a year and a half ago, but it is still a real struggle,” she said. “The homes are vacant because there are no renters.”
Gautsche did not mince words, arguing that the Housing Authority should not subsidize a project that is going to damage the market.
“I never thought (Maple Court Place) was a good idea,” Gautsche said. “I’d hate to see it move ahead.”
He said he has been speaking with representatives from the Indiana Housing & Community Development Authority for two years about the project, keeping updated on its progress and its potential impact.
Gautsche and Hoogenboom also said the new apartments would affect them because it is difficult to compete with a company that is spending $7.9 million on the 60-unit complex, an average of $131,667 per unit.
‘We can’t afford it’
The second and more immediate argument, brought up by board members, was whether or not the agency could afford to promise the vouchers even if they thought the project was a good idea. Discussion on that question was brief.
“Right now, we can’t afford it,” board member Wayne Kramer said.
Kramer also said he was concerned about the housing stock currently available in Goshen.
Board member Rudy Stegelmann said even if the Housing Authority didn’t approve the vouchers for the project now, there was no reason they couldn’t come back at a more stable time and dedicate the vouchers then. Fellow board member Richard Miller was much more direct.
“We don’t have the capacity to do this,” Miller said. “Period.”
Most likely the final nail in the coffin of Englewood Development’s request was Board President Jason Lehman’s response to what would happen if the vouchers were granted now.
As people currently granted housing choice vouchers left the program, Lehman explained, the Housing Authority would have to hold those vouchers and deny new requests from families in the community.
The board voted unanimously to deny the request.