$500K down the drain for taxpayers - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

$500K down the drain for taxpayers

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By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Albany taxpayers apparently are out $500,000 in a failed home construction project.   The city provided a half million dollar loan to help developers buy land where they were supposed to build a complex of affordable homes.    

The loan was handed out about the same time the housing market went belly up.  The project stalled, and the principal partner development died.     Now, Your tax money is gone and there's nothing to show for it.

The property we're talking about here is in the 900 block of East Oglethorpe off of Frank Postell Drive.

It's clear that someone has made a home out of the Enclave at Oglethorpe, even though the townhomes were never finished and sold to homeowners.  When we went by Friday morning, we found busted out windows and doors and evidence we weren't the only people who've recently visited. 

But this project and the ones planned adjacent to it, including one with city funding, failed.  "The project was originally slated to be a 170 unit multi-family apartment complex that was supposed to have some affordable units in there.  It was going to be a mixed use development," said Latoya Cutts with Community and Economic Development.

But that never happened.  Cutts said, "Since that loan, other than the acquisition of the land, I think that there was a little bit of infrastructure work done, but beyond that I guess that was during the time that the market went belly up and they were not able to get the additional funding needed to complete the development."

Latoya Cutts is the director of community and economic development.  She did not oversee the department at the time the loan was made.  She says such large loans are not typical, but more affordable housing is important to the city, so when developers come with money to complete their projects, those developments are encouraged.

She said, "We want to provide some funding to be able to ensure that low to moderate income, or more affordable housing opportunities are provided to citizens within the city of Albany and that's why we want the bulk of the funding to come from the developers, not actually from the city because we're trying to leverage the few dollars that we do have."

Especially since dollars have been spent that are unlikely to return. 

The city has sent correspondence to the estate of the principal partner responsible for the development, but there's been no resolution. 

Even if the estate agrees to repay some, the city will have to get in line.   Capitol city bank has the first lien on the property for more than $100,000 which means they would get their money first.

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