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City council considers investing $8 million in ARPA funds towards turning old Gayfers building into affordable housing

Published: May. 17, 2022 at 5:17 PM CDT
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MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - The old Gayfers building on Dauphin Street has been empty for several years, but it could soon be turned into affordable housing units.

“You have a historic building, you’re going to address affordable workforce housing and it’s ready to go,” said Mayor Sandy Stimpson.

Under the current plan the building would feature 95 affordable housing units that would be capped by income. 75 units for anyone making up to 60% of the median area income and the other 19 units for those making less than 50%. It’s all aimed at attracting people who work in downtown.

“Just like everyone else they have to have transportation costs and if you can live in the area where you’re going to work it certainly saves you some money,” added Stimpson.

The project comes with a price tag of about $32 million. Mayor Stimpson says the developer, Gulf Coast Housing Partnership, has invested $2.2 million. But with $24 million coming from state and federal tax credits, the mayor is hoping that $8 million in ARPA funding will offset remaining costs. However, not everyone feels like it’s a wise investment.

“Poor people who need the affordable housing do not live in Downtown Mobile so why do you not want to put $8 million into a building where people who need it don’t reside there,” said Teresa Bettis.

Some feel that affordable housing would be better off in areas where there’s a greater need like Toulminville and Happy Hills

“It’s not conducive to put the children or individuals with families in one building in Downtown Mobile. It is not even in a qualified census track which is qualified for those ARP dollars,” added Bettis.

The mayor’s administration maintains this is still a viable project that will help those who need it

“It’s affordable housing so it therefore falls into the category where we can use it where it can be spent for ARPA and we have site control in working with the developer,” said City Attorney Ricardo Woods.

“The Gayfers project is the only shovel ready project we have that addresses affordable housing in the city,” said Stimpson.

The vote will be back on the agenda on May 31st in the meantime it will also be discussed by the entitlement committee which meets next week.

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