By: Robin Ford Wallace, Reporter
Though local real estate agents say the housing market is finally making a comeback, those who read the news may have noticed that, in Dade County, anyway, luxury housing and second-home developments have been going over like snow cones in Siberia for the past few years.
In this setting, does it come as any surprise that what really is a hot commodity in Dade is affordable apartment dwelling? “They don’t go begging,” said Marsha Allen of the Auburn Ridge Apartments she manages. “They don’t stay empty but a very short time.”
And at Lookout Pointe, the new 56-unit apartment complex being built on Highway 11 just south of downtown Trenton by the same investor who owns Auburn Ridge, there is already a line forming. “We have close to 30 people on the waiting list,” said Ms. Allen.
Ms. Allen has worked for Boyd Management, the management company that runs Auburn Ridge and will run the new complex, since February 2006, a few months after Auburn Ridge opened the previous fall. She is slated to oversee Lookout Pointe for Boyd as well.
She and Boyd’s district manager, Beverly Hatfield, along with project superintendent Hubert Sowell of Olympia Construction, recently gave the Sentinel a tour of Lookout Pointe. They said work on the new complex, originally scheduled to open this spring, had been knocked slightly off schedule by this winter’s heavy rains. “We’ll be working through June,” said Ms. Hatfield. Residents can hope to begin moving in by July or August, she said.
Lookout Pointe will consist of one- and two-bedroom units and, unlike Auburn Ridge, which accepts all types of residents including families with children, is reserved for tenants 55 years of age and older.
With the older tenants in mind, the apartments all feature pull-cords that if activated will sound an alarm in the halls in case of a fall or other emergency. Additionally, the second stories are accessible by elevator, and the three apartment buildings will be joined by catwalks. “All these buildings will have a breezeway between them, so they don’t ever have to go off the top row once they get there,” said Ms. Hatfield.
But to no other extent, she specified, can the complex be considered assisted living. The office, located in a central building that will also feature common areas including library, computer and exercise rooms, will be open only during business hours. “This is just a feature for a senior property, an amenity,” she said.
How much will it run you to move in to Lookout Pointe? Marsha Allen said that’s still under discussion. “What’s going to happen once they turn the property over to us, the owner and the Department of Community Affairs will get together and they will determine the rent,” she said.
Why the Department of Community Affairs? Lookout Pointe, explained Ms. Allen, is, like Auburn Ridge, a “tax credit” property, a public/private housing concept that has developed over the past several decades.
In this model, a private owner – in this case, Jerry Braden of Summerville, who owns several such properties throughout the northwest Georgia area – receives low-interest loans as well as dollar-for-dollar tax credits for building community housing approved under federal HUD (Housing and Urban Development) guidelines.
Then, at least some of the units must be offered at discounted prices to residents who qualify under income limitations. “We have low-income apartments, we have middle-income apartments, and then we have what we call market units,” said Ms. Allen of the Auburn Ridge complex. “Someone that makes less than $12,000 a year, they can rent an apartment here for $194 a month.”
There are only seven of those low-income units, said Ms. Allen, and since she started work at Auburn Ridge in 2007 only two of those have come open. On the day of the interview she did have available a three-bedroom unit for $525 and a two-bedroom for $520. “The difference between those two, the three-bedroom is income-restricted, meaning, for example, two people can’t go over $23,000,” she said. “In the two-bedroom, they can go up to $75,000, but they pay a higher rent.”
But all the apartments are the same quality, says Ms. Allen. “If you were paying $194, your apartment would be exactly like somebody’s who was paying $520,” she said.
And Ms. Allen says that that quality is impressive indeed. Standards are set high and rigorously maintained, resulting in beautifully kept apartments. “Every time you turn around there’s somebody in here to inspect,” she said.
For the tenant, the downside is an application form a couple of inches thick. “A lot of times people will walk in here and say, ‘I need an apartment today.’ It’s not going to happen,” said Ms. Allen. “You’ve got to go through an approval process. We do background checks, credit checks – I mean, we check everybody out before they move in.”
Lookout Pointe will be tenanted along similar lines, said Ms. Allen, with an upper income limit of $20,000 though with no “low” – under $12,000 – income units. She said she has two tenants at Auburn Ridge who plan to go to the new complex.
Typically, she said, those interested in Lookout Pointe so far have tended to be widows who wanted to downsize now that they were alone or senior couples who wanted to sell their houses and no longer maintain a yard. “They’re kind of picky as to what they want,” she said. Specifically: “They want to be on the bottom floor.”
Ms. Allen is proud of Auburn Ridge’s quality – “We feel like we’re the best in the area” – and already similarly pleased with how Lookout Pointe is shaping up. “We need more housing like this,” she said. “There needs to be more decent housing like what we have here to offer to the public.”
Prospective tenants for either complex may call Boyd Management at (706) 657-8343.