Simonsen developers seek tax credits for low-income housing

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About six weeks after developers of the former Simonsen Ninth Grade Center approached the Jefferson City Council and received approvals for tax breaks, the same developers announced plans to apply to the Missouri Housing Development Commission for low-income housing tax credits.

During the August 1 council meeting, Allyn Witt (who bought the property with her husband in 2020) presented plans to the city showing her intention to convert Simonsen Place into a modern apartment complex with 72 units at market value, including quartz renovate countertops, designer lights and designer cabinets.

Under Chapter 353 of the Missouri statutes, municipalities may enter into an agreement whereby corporations will not pay school, state, county, or city taxes on properties defined as “infested areas.” Witt applied for and received a rebate of 100 percent property tax increases.

Witt, who works for Tegethoff Development in St. Louis, listed the building as a historic site. Tegethoff, which focuses on high-end developments, has developed more than 2,600 residential units totaling more than $700 million over the past six years, Witt said during the council meeting. That equates to about $270,000 per unit.

On September 15, MOCAP Development, LLC of Jefferson City sent a letter to the city announcing its intention to apply to the MHDC for a low-income home ownership tax credit through the commission.

“Simonsen Place will have up to 72 units and will be located at 501 E. Miller St.,” the letter reads. “The application to MHDC is for low-income housing tax credits. Simonsen Place will be restricted to families who meet annual income restriction criteria.”

All apartments are to be equipped with kitchen appliances, central air conditioning and cable TV. There will be a common area with a rental office, fitness room, computer workstations, kitchen and lounge areas. The property would also include an outdoor common room.

The deadline for applying for the tax allowance for low earners expired on Friday.

City attorney Ryan Moehlman said last week whether or not the Simonsen Place tax break would remain available depended on new development plans. The city believes that in order for the tax reduction to continue, the city law that creates the tax reduction would need to be amended. The developers said they would seek a city council resolution supporting a motion for low-income tax credits, he added.

Three developers each sought similar resolutions from the council during a Sept. 6 meeting. However, the council was divided. Several council members indicated that projects for low-income or blue-collar housing in the city were not necessary. During the meeting, Councilor Jack Deeken said if they only earn $12 to $14, more residents aren’t needed because they “are not helping our economy.”

Each of the resolutions was divided, with five supporting the resolutions and five opposing. In any case, Mayor Carrie Tergin broke the tie with “yes” votes.

After the meeting, numerous social service organizations expressed outrage at Deeken and others who voted against the resolutions. Local business organizations, including the Jefferson City Chamber of Commerce, sent letters of support to the Commission for each of the projects.

In the letter to the city about the Simonsen development, signed by Farmer Companies’ Curt Neuenswander, the developers said they hoped to “help meet the needs of Jefferson City’s steady income families.”

“With widespread community support, we hope to bring the addition of these much-needed homes to fruition,” the letter reads.

Neither Witt nor Neuenswander responded to numerous requests for comment.

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