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An affordable workforce housing project on the Golden Gate Golf Course that was expected to start construction in July hit another delay after the Department of Housing and Urban Development still hadn’t approved its funding commitments. 

Collier County commissioners on May 28 voted 4-1, with Chairman Chris Hall voting nay, to approve a fourth extension to Rural Neighborhood’s Renaissance Hall at Old Course, which expects approval of its first mortgage loan guarantee in June. The first extension was granted on Oct. 24, 2023, and this vote extends it to June 30. 

“This would be the last extension that I think you’ll need for getting this project done,” Commissioner Burt Saunders told commissioners, noting that the developer has made significant progress. 

Records show HUD also is awaiting environmental clearance and recommended loan approval and issuance of a Firm Commitment to the HUD National Loan Committee, the final step. On April 20, the South Florida Water Management District issued an Environmental Resources Permit, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency issued its Conditional Letter of Map Revision based on Fill on May 20, the final environmental approvals. 

In 2019, Collier County purchased the golf course, at the intersection of Collier Boulevard and Golden Gate Parkway, for $29.1 million to prevent it from being over-developed and to maintain a public golf course. The 165-acre property was purchased with $28 million of borrowed funds, without full environmental studies or a development plan. Rural Neighborhoods was chosen as the developer in June 2020 and the project has been delayed by the pandemic, hurricanes and other issues. 

Also planned are a veterans nursing home, a redesigned public-private golf course and entertainment center by an Arthrex affiliate and the First Tee nonprofit youth golfing program.   

The affordable housing will be built in phases. Phase 1, Renaissance Hall at Old Course, will provide 252 units of housing for essential services workers, including government employees, police officers, nurses and teachers. Rent will be about 80% to 120% of the Area Median Income. Phase 2 will offer 120 units for low-income seniors and veterans.  

Collier County’s Affordable Housing Fact Sheet shows 51,638 Collier County households are cost-burdened, spending more than 30% of their income on housing expenses, and nearly half spend more than 50% on housing expenses. Costs are so high that 51,196 people commute to work daily from outside of Collier County, with nearly 30% driving from the East Coast. 

PGIM Real Estate Agency Financing LLC is loaning Rural Neighborhoods $57.8 million for the first phase. Under a 99-year contract with Collier County, Rural Neighborhoods will lease about 22 acres for $10 yearly and will build and manage the development. 

Steve Kirk, of Rural Neighborhoods, told commissioners he’d already invested $2 million and has been pushing HUD.  

Commissioner Rick LoCastro noted that HUD moves at “glacial speed” and has “a lot on their plate.” 

“We might not be their No. 1 priority, but did they realize the ticking time bomb here and that you can only come to this podium so many times?” LoCastro asked Kirk. 

Kirk said HUD apologized, saying it expects it will be approved this week.

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