Locals Applying for Low-Income Senior Housing Grant
Grant would fund construction of new apartments at AHEPA 489 complex
Sally Massaro calls her apartment a "coccoon." It's safe. It's cozy.
The third floor unit is one of 50 in AHEPA 489 Apartments a federally subsidized housing complex for low-income seniors at 6625 Rowan Road, on the New Port Richey-Pasco County border.
Massaro, who lives on Social Security checks, applied to rent an apartment at the complex last year. She was told she was 89th on a waiting list. She waited at least 10 months before she learned of a vacancy in January.
“It’s a shame there aren’t more like these available,” said Massaro, 68.
There’s an effort underway to correct that problem.
The local chapter of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association is trying to secure federal funding to add new apartments for low-income seniors to the Rowan Road property.
James Koutsos, vice president of the Order of AHEPA West Pasco Chapter 489, is planning to complete an application for a grant from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development by the deadline this month.
“There’s a great need here in Pasco County,” said Judith Koutsos, James Koutsos’ wife and president of Daughters of Penelope, part of the AHEPA family. “There’s a lot of citizens that are considered low income because they’re just living on their Social Security checks,” said Judith, who has helped with the grant application.
HUD’s Section 202 grant program funds the construction, rehabilitation or acquisition of housing for "very low-income seniors." It is a cash advance for private nonprofits only and does not need to be repaid as long as the housing serves very low-income seniors for 40 years. Applicants must raise up to .5 percent of the advance themselves.
The nationwide allotment of funds for the grants totals $371 million. The deadline to apply for the grant is June 21, according to the HUD grants website.
More than 60 possible tenants are on the waiting list for one of the 50 units at the Rowan Road complex, according to the complex's property manager's estimate. The complex opened its doors in 2004, after Chapter 489 received a $3.2-million HUD grant and fronted $15,000. The complex is managed by the AHEPA National Housing Corp., which supervises 86 projects in 22 states and operates 4,489 active units.
The complex was built on a part of a 4.5-acre property owned by Chapter 489. The club wants to erect the new complex on the rest of that space.
Judith Koutsos says there were tenants who din't have homes of their own before moving into the existing complex. There have been tenants in the complex who were living with friends. One woman was sleeping on a couch, she said. Another tenant was sleeping in the backseat of his car.
Potential tenants must meet age and income restrictions. They must be “very low-income” seniors no younger than 62. A single tenant cannot earn more than $19,800 in adjusted annual income. Two people occupying an apartment can earn no more than a combined total of $22,000. A tenant's rent does not exceed 30 percent of their monthly income.
James Koutsos said he doesn’t know how much money the chapter could receive for new units. An applicant’s location and how munety it has raised affects how much money it will receive, as it affects construction costs.
The project was given a letter of commitment for $100,000 on behalf of Pasco County Commissioners from the head of the County Community Development division, Robert Romagnoli. Chapter 489 is paying $15,000 for upfront costs, like surveying and architect services, James Koutsos said. The Koutsoses said they paid out of their own pockets for some costs, like $400 to learn how to complete the grant.
“It’s very difficult, but that’s part of life," he said. “The ones that are there now, they’re so happy they’re thanking me all over the place."
This is the third try for a grant since the original complex was built, said Thomas Anastassiou, president of Chapter 489 and head of the board of directors for the apartments.
The chapter doesn’t have the money to try again, he said.
“I hope we get it,” he said. “This will be the last time.”
The applicants are looking for letters of support from the community to send in with the application. If you have one, drop it off for the Koutsos at Spartan Manor.