Gulf Breeze Apartments in Punta Gorda, FL has won a 2009 Charles L. Edson Tax Credit Excellence Award in the Public Housing Revitalization category.

Photo Courtesy of Norstar Development USA, LP

In August 2004, Hurricane Charley, a category four hurricane, devastated the town of Punta Gorda, Florida, an area already struggling with an affordable housing shortage.  The result was an even more serious need for affordable rental housing.  Norstar Development USA, LP stepped in to address that need by developing Gulf Breeze Apartments.  Gulf Breeze provides 171 total units: 83 Housing Credit units, 85 public housing units, and 3 market rate units. 

The property utilizes a low-density pattern with only three to four townhome style units per building, spread over 12 acres.  Each unit has its own front porch facing the internal “Main Street” road.  There is a 7,000 square foot community center with an on-site community policing center.  Each unit is equipped with energy efficient appliances, and, most important, designed to be hurricane resistant, with strong infrastructure, metal roofs, and high-impact windows. 

Residents at Gulf Breeze benefit from a variety of resident services designed to allow them to purse greater self-reliance.  Partnerships with the Charlotte County Housing Corporation and Habitat for Humanity provide homeownership education and financial programming focused on understanding credit, predatory lending practices, budgeting, and fair housing.  Additionally, a locally certified professional accountant provides an annual tax preparation workshop.  After-school programs were developed with the Charlotte County Boys and Girls Club to provide homework assistance.  The Early Learning Coalition of Florida Heartlands and Healthy Start & Families offer child care resources and parenting counseling.  The property also provides referrals to Angel Food Ministries, which provides grocery items at a reduced price. 

Gulf Breeze Apartments provides a lunch program for seniors and disabled residents through the Charlotte Council on Aging as well as a youth basketball program, which matched youth with police officers from the community police station that is located on property.  The Charlotte County Health Department produced a Health Fair at Gulf Breeze in June 2009, which offered health screenings and medical testing.  A resident assistance referral program provides free emergency cell phones and access to free health clinics, pharmacies, and vision services. 

In addition to $9 million in Housing Credit equity syndicated by RBC Capital Markets, Gulf Breeze combined several financing sources to achieve financial feasibility including: $2.3 million in Florida Housing Finance Corporation Recovery Loan Program funding; $12.1 million in insurance payouts from the previous structure and disaster grant funds from HUD; $14 million in local revenue bonds; and $500,000 from the Federal Home Loan Bank’s Affordable Housing Program. 

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