Portsmouth City Council agrees to $1.2 million request from housing authority for more than 100 new senior apartments

The City Council agreed to a request Tuesday to grant the Portsmouth Redevelopment and Housing Authority $1.2 million for a senior apartment complex within the Lincoln Park community.

The Lexington Senior complex will offer 105 units to adults 62 and older. The council unanimously approved the project in July, and the housing authority asked for a contribution to the estimated $30.5 million project.

The senior complex is the second phase to redevelop the Lincoln Park community, which once anchored one of the city’s oldest and biggest public housing complexes. The complex, which was built in 1960 with nearly 200 apartments, was demolished in 2019. The first phase of redevelopment, known as Lexington Place, was constructed in April 2021 and offers 72 townhouse-style units.

The bulk of funding for the senior project comes from $12.3 million in low-income housing tax credits, in addition to smaller loans and grants from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development and the Hampton Roads Planning Commission, for example.

The authority hopes to secure all funding by May to begin construction in June. The project is expected to be completed by August 2024.

In a council work session, lawmakers took a “show of hands” consensus vote and backed the funding request 4-2. Before reaching a consensus, council members raised several concerns about the housing authority’s finances. The discussion got heated, with Mayor Shannon Glover asking Councilman Mark Whitaker to leave the work session after Whitaker grilled housing authority leaders about not providing their financial statements — a request he’s made over the last few months.

Whitaker returned for the subsequent closed session and regular meeting.

Portsmouth Redevelopment and Housing Authority Executive Director Edward Bland said he didn’t have all the requested information because there’s been a delay on the audits that’s been attributed to staffing shortages, but he expects them by March or April.

Bland also said the financial statements will show operational costs, but won’t give much insight to construction costs for various projects, including this one. The Lexington Place project cost about $15.4 million and included a $338,000 contribution from the city.

Though they couldn’t provide exact figures, Bland and Deputy Executive Director Alisa Winston said the rising costs of construction and supplies make it more expensive than originally expected, even after scaling back the initial plan to provide about 177 units across both complexes instead of nearly 300.

Whitaker said the request wasn’t a small ask, but Councilman Vernon Tillage Jr. disagreed and said the city should send a message that it supports more affordable housing for Portsmouth.

Vice Mayor Lisa Lucas-Burke concurred. She said the financial data won’t show the council members any information that addresses this funding request and that the city should stand firm on its commitment to give the housing authority the resources it needs.

Glover added that the anticipated real estate tax revenue is expected to make up the $1.2 million contribution from the city as the senior complex will be a tax generator. Bland said the authority paid more than $340,000 in real estate taxes in 2021 and anticipates an additional $40,000 from this project.

But Councilman De’Andre Barnes, who joined Councilman Bill Moody in opposing the funding request, said the project has been delayed because the authority hasn’t provided their financial statements. Moody also said he wanted to see that information before supporting any funding.

Natalie Anderson, 757-732-1133, natalie.anderson@virginiamedia.com