Rapid Filling of Midtown Lofts Underscores the Demand for Affordable Housing, Developers Say

The desire for affordable housing in Lakeland was evident as soon as leasing began for the 80-unit Midtown Lofts complex on Parker Street, its developers said at a dedication ceremony today. Leasing agents were getting 25 calls a day, and all of the units were claimed within two months, according to Oscar Sol and Mitch Rosenstein, co-founders of Green Mills Group of Fort Lauderdale.

“Lakeland’s working families and seniors need safe, affordable, beautiful places to live,” Rosenstein said at today’s ribbon-cutting ceremony for the four-story building that resulted from a partnership between Green Mills, the city of Lakeland and the Lakeland Community Redevelopment Agency.

It was a sentiment seconded by the Rev. Tim Mitchell, executive director of Parker Street Ministries, which has worked since 1996 to revitalize the neighborhood. “We haven’t had this kind of space before in the neighborhood,” he said before delivering the invocation this morning. “We’re honored to have this in our back yard.”

So far, 60 families have moved into the complex, Rosenstein said, and the rest will occupy their apartments soon. Several of those families already lived in the Parker Street neighborhood and were able to upgrade their living situations by moving into Midtown Lofts, Mitchell said.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Our original article failed to include the income guidelines for renting at Midtown Lofts or sample rental costs. After many questions were raised in Facebook comments, LkldNow reached out to Teresa Maio, the city of Lakeland’s planning and housing manager, for clarification. Her full response is attached as a comment on our Facebook post. Here is a summary:

Housing that benefits from affordable housing grants relies on income guidelines to determine who qualifies to live there and how much they pay for rent. The aim is to ensure that total housing costs are less than 30% of a household’s gross income.

At Midtown Lofts, 72 of the 80 units are classified as affordable housing and eight units are market rate. To qualify for the affordable housing apartments, the applicant’s household income must be at 60% or less of area median income. The two charts below reflect the income limits for Polk County residents and the rent limits at local affordable housing complexes such as Midtown Lofts:

By contrast, the recently completed Mirrorton apartment community closer to downtown Lakeland is a market-rate development that advertises the following as its lowest monthly rates: studio, $1,375; one-bedroom, $1,440; two-bed, $1,725; three-bed, $1,855.

Sol and Rosenstein credited the CRA with selling Green Mills the 1.8-acre lot (price: $324,000) and providing a $162,000, 17-year loan for the project. They also thanked the city of Lakeland for waiving impact fees and declaring the property a brownfield area, qualifying it for development credits.

Midtown Lofts, viewed from the corner of Parker Street and Lake Avenue
The lot was vacant in March 2019, prior to construction. The view is from Stella Avenue on the west side of the property.

Raymond James Tax Credit Funds provided $14 million in tax credit equity for the project, whose construction costs exceeded $16.2 million, Green Mills Group said in a news release. The project s was awarded 9% tax credits from Florida Housing Finance Corp., the release said.

Midtown Lofts was built by Rodda Construction and Strickland Construction, both of Lakeland. Amenities include a community room, library, business center with computers, and a fitness center.

The Peace River Center for Personal Development assisted by referring clients with accessibility needs for specially equipped units, Rosenstein said.

The view from Lake Avenue

The project is part of the city of Lakeland’s effort to provide 500 new affordable housing units by 2023. In March, several city commissioners said they were prepared to increase the city’s funding for affordable housing to $750,000 next year; the commission ratified that position last week when it declared affordable housing the city’s top budget priority for 2022.

Speaking at today’s grand opening ceremony, Commissioner Sarah McCarley called the project “transformative” and said, “The neighborhood has evolved because of the people who love it.”

Green Mills Group also developed the 96-unit Aida Palms affordable housing complex off Lakeland Hills Boulevard near the main Post Office and plans to break ground soon on the 88-unit Parker Pointe community on Bella Vista Street near Tigertown.

Another report – Fox 13 News: