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BMD's Christopher Walker Helps Connect Veterans with Housing Options

Christopher Walker, a partner with BMD, is currently representing the Invest in America's Veterans Foundation, an organization that strives to provide a "head start" for veterans that involves the least amount of "red tape" possible. With a strong background in corporate and real estate transactions, Walker has been able to assist the foundation with the recent purchase of an apartment building, which will be used for low-income veteran housing.

Please see the article below written by David Cawton of the Daily Record for the full story. 


 

Invest in America’s Veterans Foundation bought the former Mission Springs Apartments in West Jacksonville with plans to convert it into low-income housing for veterans and their families.

The Cape Coral-based nonprofit paid $26.3 million for the property on Tuesday. San Antonio, Texas-based The Lynd Co. will manage the 444-unit complex at 5320 Timuquana Road. 

Christopher Walker, who represents the foundation, said the group is taking stock of how many veterans live there and how it can attract more. 

“We think veterans make up about 10 to 15 percent of the population right now,” Walker said. “In the future, we’d like to see that at least 20 to 25 percent, or about 120 veteran families.” 

He said over the next few months, the foundation will work with Lynd to make minor upgrades to the property and then begin programs for veterans.

“We’re going to work very closely with the other veteran organizations in Jacksonville, such as the VA hospital, the VFWs and American Legions, to make sure we’re providing the right kind of services,” Walker said.

He said the foundation will assist veterans with employment, housing, access to counseling and “getting them the help they need so they can continue to live productive lives.” 

He said the group focused on supporting single-family homes and small-scale programs for the past nine years.

This is the foundation’s first apartment complex, but it won’t be the last, Walker said. 

“We have other apartment complexes and projects that are just as big or larger in the works right now,” he said. 

Ralph Santillo, the foundation’s president, said the property is 96 percent occupied. He estimated monthly rents for the one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments will be $650 to $950.

It also accepts the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program, which is similar to Section 8. The Veterans Administration assists in paying the rents, taking into consideration how much a veteran makes and will pay a percentage of the rent.

Santillo said the foundation was considering construction of a veterans’ center on the property.

In April, the nonprofit was approved to use up to $28.5 million in revenue bonds issued by Capital Trust Agency Inc. 

At the time, there was concern from some City Council members and the mayor’s office whether the project met specific conditions under TEFRA, the Tax Equality and Fiscal Responsibility Act, since the sale is considered tax-exempt. 

A TEFRA hearing, required by the federal tax code, determines whether a project, paid for by tax-exempt bonds, meets certain criteria and is appropriate for the community. 

At the April 5 council Finance Committee meeting, chair Anna Brosche assured the committee that those issues had been handled. 

There also was concern about the loss in revenue to the city because nonprofit ownership of the property removes it from the tax roll. 

The foundation agreed to make payments in lieu of taxes for the lifetime of the bond, about $142,000 a year, to make up for the loss.  

Walker said the foundation is looking for other areas in Jacksonville for expansion, “whether that’s more housing or bringing some of our corporate operations here.” 

“Jacksonville has such a strong reputation with the military and working with veterans,” he added. “It’s a natural fit.”