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The Mountain View Heights senior tower on Spring Street is expected to receive a certificate of occupancy April 10, the senior project manager for the Louisiana-based construction company awarded the $22 million contract to renovate all of the city's public housing stock said Tuesday.

Stewart Smith of B.A.S Construction Co. told the Hot Springs Housing Authority's Board of Commissioners renovations have been completed or are underway on eight of the 11-story high-rise's 10 residential floors, a milestone he said puts the project comfortably ahead of the April 28 deadline. The housing authority has said the penalty provision in the company's contract will trigger if all 365 public housing units do not meet U.S. Housing and Urban Development Housing Quality Standards by the deadline.

The housing authority said about 70 to 75 residents have been residing in the 120-unit tower during construction. Renovations have been completed on the seventh, eighth, ninth, 10th and 11th floors. Smith said the sixth floor's certificate of occupancy should be issued today. Installation of the variable flow climate control system that's replacing the hot water system is nearing completion on the fifth and fourth floors, he said.

Smith told the board last month the new workflow system he implemented had improved coordination between his crew and subcontractors and put the renovation back on schedule.

"Those are hard dates I'm holding my people to," Smith told the board Tuesday, explaining that he expected certificates of occupancy to be issued for the final two floors of the renovation by early April and for the building by April 10. "As soon as we get the third and second floors, we are going to day-and-night shifts to do everything we have to do to tie the whole building together and get the new fire alarm in place and do everything the fire marshal needs us to do."

Renovations for all but one of the 245 family units at Eastwood Gardens and Eastwood Heights have been completed, Smith said. Those residents were also moved between units during construction, which began after the multilayered financing for the $57 million project converting all of the city's public housing to private ownership closed at the end of 2017.

Richard Herrington, the housing authority's executive director, said Tuesday that equity investors in the limited partnership the housing authority formed to facilitate financing for the project will receive the tax credits they purchased when the tower renovation is completed.

The 4-percent Low Income Housing Tax Credits sold by Royal Bank of Canada to investors seeking to reduce their federal tax liabilities raised $17.2 million for the project. The Bennett Group, an Alabama-based developer, applied to the Arkansas Development Finance Authority for the credits, which were allotted on the condition that the renovated units remain available to low-and-moderate income tenants for 40 years.

The debt-financing piece for the conversion came from the $28.3 million bond issue the Arkansas Development Finance Authority floated in 2017. An attorney overseeing the transaction said Citibank purchased the bonds and sold them to the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp., one of several lenders with a security interest in 365 units.

The limited partnership secures the debt through project-based, Section 8 vouchers HUD provides low-income tenants and income-based rents paid by tenants. Herrington said collecting rent is critical now that it helps service debt.

The limited partnership filed nine civil evictions last week in Garland County Circuit Court seeking more than $17,000 in unpaid rent and other charges.

"This is no longer free housing," he said. "This is private now. The (limited partnership) has bills it has to pay."

The conversion to private ownership was enabled by HUD's Rental Assistance Demonstration, a program steering private capital toward billions of dollars in deferred maintenance the country's public housing has accumulated from years of underfunding.

Herrington said $18 million in deferred maintenance had accumulated at the city's public housing, as no capital improvements had been made since the units were built in the early 1960s.

Private ownership means HUD no longer subsidizes utility payments made on behalf of tenants, Herrington said. Tenants still receive water and electricity free of charge, but Herrington said the partnership pays for it without the HUD subsidy.

Each of the 265 family units was equipped with a new washer and dryer as part of the renovation. Herrington said the senior tower will have a coin-operated laundry, but that tenants will receive water and electricity free of charge.

Local on 02/20/2019

Print Headline: Senior tower project nears completion

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