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Miami Herald - January 10, 2007

Seniors get affordable housing in Overtown

By Michael Vasquez

Still grappling with an affordable-housing crisis, Miami city leaders on Wednesday took time to savor the completion of a 175-unit apartment building in Overtown, the city's poorest neighborhood.

All apartments in the new building are leased to qualifying senior citizens.

''We do have a mission,'' said City Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones, whose district includes Overtown. ``And that mission is to make sure that every person in the city of Miami has the opportunity to live in decent housing.''

Wednesday's event was a ribbon-cutting for Tuscan View, a senior rental high-rise at 670 NW Sixth St. All apartments were officially leased out last month.

One of the new occupants, Josefina Souto, 68, said she makes regular use of the fitness center.

''This is precious,'' Souto said of her new surroundings, which will house both her and her 32-year-old disabled daughter. Until now, the pair shared a cramped Flagami space with Souto's son, his wife and the couple's children.

''Too many people,'' Souto said.

Tuscan View was developed by Massachusetts-based The Gatehouse Companies in cooperation with BAME Development Corp. of South Florida. In addition to a fitness center, the building also features a community room and a library/computer room.

Monthly rent starts at $461.

Much of the nearly $22 million project cost was funded by federal tax credits. Miami also contributed $1.5 million in federal block grant money earmarked for the city.

Mayor Manny Diaz said the project is a perfect example of the city's strategy of leveraging its limited affordable-housing funds with private investors to make the greatest impact. Since 2000, Diaz said the city has spurred more than $541 million in affordable-housing investment -- using only roughly $47 million of actual city funds.

Diaz said another $200 million in investment is currently in the pipeline, and Miami hopes to reach the billion-dollar mark by 2010.

''We will get there,'' Diaz said.