Broward County, Fla., is bordered by beaches, the Florida Everglades (two-thirds of the county lies within the protected marshlands), and the vast county of Palm Beach with views of Lake Okeechobee. The position of affordable housing in Broward County, however, leaves something to be desired—between a rock and a hard place is more like it, according to Kevin Cregan, CEO of the Broward County Housing Authority (BCHA).

“The need for affordable housing is huge,” said Cregan. “We have 25 qualified applicants vying for one unit. Part of the problem is that Broward County is just about 100 percent built out. The other half of the equation is the income gap.”

A recent study prepared by the Florida International University Metropolitan Center, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based nonprofit, painted a bleak picture. The annual median income of Broward County renters is $31,898, and 57 percent of renter households earn less than $41,300 a year. To afford a market-rate apartment, households need an annual income of $45,000. What’s really sobering is that half of the local labor force works in service jobs, which pay annual incomes of $25,000 or less.

The mortgage crisis and ozone-high home prices have kept many would-be homeowners on the rental track. Twenty-two of Broward County’s 30 municipalities have affordability gaps of more than $100,000 between the median sales price of a single-family home and the family median income needed to buy a home.

The BCHA recently has partnered with two affordable housing developers to build new affordable units and redevelop run-down public housing to deal with the lack of federal subsidies.

“It’s been evident to local housing authorities for years that the federal government is not holding up their end of the bargain when it comes to public housing funding,” said Cregan. “Every year, they say you’re entitled to x, but we are going to give you x minus 17 percent. And we’re not going to ease up on our regulations so that you can somehow adjust to that decrease in funds. We’ve got to get the money from somewhere else.”

“The partnerships have allowed the authority to share in the developer fee, get out-of-pocket expenses reimbursed, and get some positive cash flow after the property is up and occupied,” added Cregan.

One affordable project that is “up and occupied” is Crystal Lake Apartments in the city of Hollywood. The $28.2 million project was completed last September by Miami-based Pinnacle Housing Group, a Florida developer that builds affordable and market-rate units. BCHA solicited proposals back in 2003 to replace the existing Crystal Lake project without relying on scarce federal subsidies.

Demolition of the old complex was approved by the Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2004. The BCHA received Sec. 8 vouchers to relocate residents.

“The neighborhood realized what we were putting up in place of the run-down complex was so much better,” said Cregan. “We didn’t encounter much NIMBYism.”

The 190-unit development was built with the rest of the neighborhood in mind.

“The old institutional-looking buildings blocked the view of the lake,” said Timothy Wheat, regional vice president for Pinnacle Housing Group. “Now people can see to the end of the street to the lake. We added a landscaped turning circle. We connected it more to the rest of the neighborhood.” Pinnacle is installing a clubhouse that will feature public art, Wheat added. An additional phase will include for-sale townhomes. The project is the first redevelopment of a public housing project in Broward County, said Cregan.

Crystal Lake Apartments received $17.2 million in low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) equity. The syndicator was MMA Financial. Financing also included $9.3 million in permanent mortgage financing by Citibank, $866,676 in county HOME and State Housing Initiatives Partnerships funds, $500,000 in city HOME funds, and $385,000 in deferred fees and other sources.

BCHA and Pinnacle are working on bringing more new housing to the most needy in Broward. One hundred units for seniors are being built at Highland Gardens in Deerfield Beach, an existing property that is already home to 100 households consisting of seniors and those with special needs. Construction started on those units last October and should be completed by the end of 2008. The $16.6 million project is financed predominately through tax credits. Wachovia Securities is the syndicator.

The BCHA and Pinnacle are looking to get lucky with Oakland Preserve, an affordable project that would make use of five acres of land the authority owns. The project received a perfect score in the competition for 2007 LIHTCs, but received a low number in Florida’s lottery system. Cregan is hopeful that luck will be a lady when the project applies in the next go-round.

Pinnacle’s spirits haven’t been dampened, though. The developer is planning another affordable project with the Pompano Beach Housing Authority to demolish and replace 118 units of dilapidated units and build 184 new affordable units in Broward. The plan also includes building single-family homes.

The BCHA has also joined forces with another big affordable housing player, Coconut Grove, Fla.-based Carlisle Development Group, to build Tallman Pines, reportedly the first LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) affordable housing project in Florida.

Like the Crystal Lake project, this $50 million complex involves demolishing existing public housing property and maximizing density without sacrificing quality, said Ken Naylor, senior developer for Carlisle. He said the community should welcome its first residents in the second quarter of this year, and the project is scheduled for completion three months after that.

Tallman Pines consists of two phases. The first is 200 affordable units, and the second is 42 for-sale single-family homes. The financing for the rental units was completed in two tranches, said Naylor.

“We did 176 units as a 9 percent tax credit deal and the balance of 24 units as a bond deal using the rental recovery loan program funds from the state,” said Naylor. “The high cost of construction pushed us to utilize supplemental funds that Florida had made available for hurricane- impacted counties.”

Naylor said the two- and three-story buildings increase density, and its location encourages residents to make greener transportation choices. The site is close to public transit, and the developer is installing many bike racks. Carlisle has plans to build more affordable housing in Fort Lauderdale.

Meanwhile, the BCHA continues to look for opportunities.

“You really can’t do a 9 percent deal if you have to pay market rate for the land,” said Cregan. “We’re looking at joint ventures where we can share ownership interests.”