More than affordable

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Most gated communities consist of exclusive estates or townhouses protected by steel bars that restrict entrance to those who live or have business inside. But Little Rock, Ark.-based Phillips Development Corp. has used the same approach with resounding success at Fort Hope, an affordable housing complex built on the south side of Cape Girardeau in 2001.

Fort Hope occupies land once occupied by St. Francis Hospital through much of the 20th century. The abandoned hospital building had become a white elephant that attracted drug dealers and gang graffiti. The Fort Hope housing development was a welcome, attractive replacement.

But it is one thing to build affordable rental housing and quite another to keep that housing from deteriorating. The gate restricting access, strict application requirements and no-nonsense managers have made the Fort Hope apartments into housing Cape Girardeau police chief Steve Strong says he would live in if he were eligible.

Single tenants at Fort Hope must make less than $23,040 a year. The income for a family of four must be no more than $32,880 a year. Monthly rents range from $240 for a single-bedroom apartment to $355 for a three-bedroom apartment.

The developers are able to keep rents low through the tax credits they received for building the housing. All 44 apartments are rented. Thirty people are on the waiting list.

Now Phillips Development is building another low-income complex in the city, this one consisting of 19 duplexes at Missouri and Jefferson avenues. These will be a bit more upscale, with rents ranging from $420 to $445 a month. The duplexes will have yards, garages and more square footage than the apartments at Fort Hope.

Ironically, it isn't certain whether Napa Ridge, the duplex development, will be gated. Bob Whaley, the manager, says the gate and fence might not be built because the cost of the project was miscalculated. The builders say gating probably won't be as crucial at Napa Ridge because the neighborhood does not have the same crime problems the old hospital grounds once did.

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