Concerns over tax exemptions for Greenville affordable housing project

GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) - - In June, Greenville County announced ways it's supporting construction on affordable housing, but now, a shovel-ready project close to downtown may be put on hold.

The Greenville Housing Authority, TGHA, shared details of the "Logan Park" project with the community earlier this year. The first phase of the project included affordable housing for seniors and veterans in the location of the old "Scott Towers" site off of Augusta Street. 

Housing officials say the project is important because it will provide nearly 200 affordable units addressing the shortage in the county. 

"I think the hang up is how long the housing authority would own the property and the for-profit would actually build and operate the facility," Greeenville County Councilman Ennis Fant said.

County leaders are concerned over their interpretation of a state law which gives tax exemption status to housing authorities. 

Currently, the financing agreement necessary to make the "low-income housing tax credit" project work includes the for-profit developer leasing the land from the Housing Authority. TGHA owns the land and says they'll always be the landlord. However, the developer would become the majority owner of the land for the duration of the tax exemption period. 

"If we can figure out a way where the property never transfers to the for-profit, and the tax exemption can stay in place, then we can move forward," Fant says. 

Other Upstate counties have allowed their housing authorities to partner with for-profit developers under similar financial agreements. Giving incentives that developers say are needed. 

"They're pretty vital to producing low income housing," Michael Dey, the CEO of Greenville's Home Builders Association. 

County leaders say agreeing to the exemptions under those circumstances could lead to potential abuse down the road. 

"You can't be for-profit and get tax exemptions, in particular in a county that never raises taxes, so that wouldn't work," Fant said. 

Housing officials say the project could save taxpayers around $1.5 million by preventing homelessness, but they need the developer on board with the project to make that happen.

"Their resources only go so far," Dey said. "In order to stretch those resources, we're trying to create situations where a for-profit entity can participate and make some form of profit."

Sources tell 7News TGHA and the developer are trying to re-work numbers in order to complete the deal and project. 

Housing officials say they're also working with representatives to get state laws changed to make it easier to build affordable housing across the state. 


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