Senior-housing project not selected for tax credit

Backers of the proposed William Way Senior Residences announced this week that the project was not among the list of housing programs selected for tax credits from the state.

Had it been selected, the tax credit could have generated about $12 million in equity for the program, which would offer low-income LGBT-friendly senior housing in a building adjoining the William Way LGBT Community Center.

Organizers will have the opportunity to apply again in the coming months.

The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency awarded eight projects in Philadelphia County with the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit. Among the local awards were two for projects geared toward the elderly, the 64-unit St. Maron Hall at Ninth and Ellsworth streets and the Westminster Senior Apartments in the 500 block of N. 52nd St.

Approximately 55 percent of the PHFA tax credits are set aside for six specific regions, with the rest going to fund areas such as preservation, supportive housing and strategic investment. Of the regional set-asides, approximately 18.73 percent is allocated to Region 1, which includes Philadelphia and the four surrounding counties.

The regional set-asides are further divided statewide by purpose, with 55 percent of the allocation devoted to general housing and 45 percent for senior occupancy, although PHFA cautioned that those numbers can be adjusted based on need. Thirty-three projects were selected for the credits throughout the state, with 12 devoted to the elderly, approximately 36 percent.

The Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld Fund, which is spearheading the William Way project along with development company Pennrose Properties, will have 90 days to reapply.

Jacob Fisher, Pennrose development officer, said projects often have to apply three times for the tax credit before they’re approved.

“We know that it’s a highly, highly competitive resource,” he said. “And there are a lot of good projects out there. So it can be difficult to get funded the first time around.”

Organizers will meet with PHFA representatives in the next few weeks to review the original application and receive feedback on strengthening it.

“We’ll take that to heart and put together an even tighter package next time around,” Fisher said. “Pennrose is still very excited about serving as a development partner on this job with dmhFund, and we have every reason to believe this deal is fundable and can and will receive an allocation in the future.”

At a press conference to announce the development this week, Chris Bartlett, executive director of the William Way LGBT Community Center, said the center’s board will discuss another application at its June 26 public meeting.

Larry Felzer, director of development at SeniorLAW Center, noted that as the project progresses through its planning stages, it’s fueling discussion on the challenges LGBT seniors face.

“This project has put the need for LGBT senior housing on the radar screen of many in Philadelphia for the first time, which also raises awareness of other issues LGBT elders deal with,” Felzer said.

Published by Jen Colletta in the Philadelphia Gay News on July 21, 2011.