PROPERTY MATTERS: Chatham-Savannah Land Bank Authority updates “affordable” housing requirements amid developer dispute

SAVANNAH AGENDA

Global Investment Traders built this home at 1417 E. 55th St. after purchasing the property from the land bank for $48,300. GIT sold the home in May for $277,500. | Eric Curl
Global Investment Traders built this home at 1417 E. 55th St. after purchasing the property from the land bank for $48,300. GIT sold the home in May for $277,500. | Eric Curl

The Chatham County-Savannah Land Bank Authority has adopted new guidelines and requirements to better ensure developers meet the terms of affordable housing agreements after learning one of the authority’s former properties was recently sold for a price higher than what the board approved. After being questioned about the sale by the land bank’s director, the same developer indicated three additional properties acquired from the land bank would also be sold for prices above the proposed amounts. In addition, Savannah Agenda has found that the sale was not the first time the developer sold a property for more than what was initially proposed to the board.

The newly adopted guidelines come after Global Investment Traders (GIT) purchased property at 1417 E. 55th St. from the land bank for $48,300. Land bank officials say the developer was to construct a house on the site that would be sold for no more than $237,000 to a moderate-income buyer (households with annual incomes at or below 120% of area median income), under the agreement approved by the board in August  2021. Instead, the developer sold the home in May for $277,500, as indicated by the sales record.

Land bank officials are now attempting to make sure that the developer will meet the terms of similar sales agreements on three additional properties GIT purchased from the landbank at 1204 Seiler Avenue, 915 W. 40th St. and 416 Staley Avenue. 

At the board’s direction, Goldey sent a letter on June 1 informing GIT owners Nasar and Daed Jaber that they were expected to comply with the terms of the sales contracts for the properties and that it was of “the utmost importance” to keep the land bank informed of their ability to do so. If the properties are not redeveloped in accordance with the proposed sales prices approved by the board, the property could revert back to the land bank’s ownership as indicated in the agreements, she said. 

Naser Jaber said in response in an email on June 13 that they cannot sell the properties for the proposed prices due to increased building costs from supply chain issues and inflation. They received Goldey’s letter after they had already started construction, putting them in an “awkward position,” Jabar said.

“If the Land Bank insists that we must sell for those prices, we will have to return the 3 properties to you; however, we have put significant time and expense into the lots (permit fees, plans, site prep, foundation) that we would need to recover,” he said. “We are hopeful to come to a resolution to move ahead. Had we realized the price in the proposals was binding, we would have studied that figure more closely.”

Attempts by Savannah Agenda to reach Jaber via email on Aug.10 and Aug.17 were unsuccessful.

At their Aug. 9 meeting, Goldey informed the land bank’s board that GIT expects to sell the Staley Avenue property for about $250,000. GIT’s proposed sales price for the property was $170,000 when the land bank approved the $14,000 sale to the developer in February.

“What their projected sales price versus what their cost to build has dramatically increased compared to what they originally submitted to us,” Goldey told the board.

An inquiry by Savannah Agenda found that GIT has previously sold properties acquired from the land bank for more than what the developer initially proposed to the board.

GIT sold 2505 Harden St. for $150,000 in July 2021 after the board had approved the developer’s offer that included a projected sales price of $129,000 in October 2020, according to sales records and meeting minutes. In addition, the developer sold 519 W. 60th St. for $141,000 in June 2021 after the board approved GIT’s proposal, which included a projected sales price of $109,000, as the property record and Oct. 2020 meeting minutes indicate.

However, Goldey said via email that those sales did not violate the agreement with the land bank because, unlike the 55th street property, no maximum sales amount was agreed to. In addition, the sales prices fell under the 120% AMI requirements for a moderate income buyer, Goldey said. At the time, the land bank required that all housing developed be affordable to households earning 120% AMI or less, according to Goldey. The new affordability guidelines and requirements adopted by the board on Aug. 9 ensure that most housing developed on land bank acquired property will be affordable to households earning 80% of area median income (AMI) or less, Goldey said.

The updated guidelines also include a requirement that developers sell the affordable dwellings at or below the authority’s established sales price at the time the property is approved for sale by the board.  In addition, if a single house is being built then that property has to be affordable. Otherwise, 50 percent of the dwellings, if there is more than one, would have to be affordable. Property closings also have to be through an attorney approved by the land bank.

About the Chatham County-Savannah Land Bank Authority

The Land Bank Authority was created through an intergovernmental agreement between the city of Savannah and Chatham County.  Organized and operating under the state laws of Georgia, the Authority is a separate entity created to acquire vacant, abandoned, blighted, tax delinquent properties and assist in the return of the properties to a productive use.

The authority works in a collaborative effort with local government, neighborhood communities, non-profit and private developers to assist in the revitalization of neighborhoods, supporting the increase of property values, and  stabilizing the real estate market through strategic property acquisition, disposition, land use, management, and redevelopment of underutilized properties.


Land bank board members

Gregori Anderson 

    Chatham County Director of Building and             Regulatory Services

Martin Fretty 

    City of Savannah director of Housing &             Neighborhood Services Department

Gregory Scott 

    Chatham County Risk Manager, Chatham             County Occupational Safety

Taffanye Young 

    City of Savannah, chief community services             officer

Tomeca McPherson 

    Weichert Realtors

Source: City of Savannah


READ MORE DEVELOPMENT NEWS AT SAVANNAHAGENDA.COM

About The Author

Eric Curl

When not wandering the streets with his canine companion, Eric Curl is probably reading building permits and meeting agendas. He writes Property Matters on to share what he finds. You can find the column, along with other stories, cartoons and quizzes about local matters at Savannahagenda.com.
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