Alachua County purchases Sunrise Residence Inn from St. Francis House

Alachua County purchases Sunrise Residence Inn from St. Francis House
Alachua County purchases Sunrise Residence Inn from St. Francis House

The Alachua County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to purchase the Sunrise Residence Inn from St. Francis House.

The county will purchase the property for $1.95 million, which was St. Francis House’s asking price. The board will pay a $150,000 deposit to execute the contract and another $150,000 deposit within 90 days. The rest of the money will be due within 30 days of the final deposit.

The property includes two apartment buildings located at 2105 and 2120 SW 14th St. in Gainesville. It provides housing primarily for working homeless people but opens applications for those with disabilities at times.

In discussion at Tuesday’s county commission meeting, Alachua County manager Michele Lieberman recommended the board make the purchase as soon as possible.

“This is 35 units, most of them occupied,” she said. “They are all HUD vouchers, and the vouchers are to the project, not the people.”

St. Francis House would have had to close the Sunrise Residence Inn to cut its costs, displacing its residents. The Inn qualifies as a federal low-income housing program with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, but residents would not have been able to transfer to a different location.

“We already have a shortage of this type of housing in the community and we feel it’s critical,” Lieberman said.

The sale of the property comes as St. Francis House faces rapidly increasing costs of operation, which led to the shelter temporarily stopping its daily meal service April 15 for homeless people in Gainesville.

St. Francis House Executive Director Lauri Schiffbauer said the sale will allow the shelter to resume its regular operations almost immediately.

“We intend to reinstate our food services, our daily meal services, as well as our housing services for unsheltered folks in our community effective next Monday,” she said.

The county doesn’t yet know what costs might be associated with renovation or maintenance on the properties, which board chair Mary Alford said was a risk.

“We may be taking a risk,” she said, “but this is us taking care of community.”

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