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STAYING THE COURSE Sarasota County Commissioners Carolyn Mason (left) and Nora Patterson peruse background ma- terial on agenda items. File photo NARROW COUNTY COMMISSION MAJORITY APPROVES HOUSING AUTHORITY EXCLUSIVITY IN COMPETITION FOR FEDERAL LOW-INCOME HOUSING PROGRAM TAX CREDITS By Cooper Levey-Baker Associate Editor After a debate over free-market principles and the need to finish projects that long have been in the works, the Sarasota County Commis- sion voted narrowly on Nov. 13 to approve a policy that gives the Sarasota and Venice Housing Authorities the exclusive right to ap- ply for state housing tax credits. The policy will help the Housing Authorities in the competition to win federal tax credits for affordable housing through the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program, administered in the Sunshine State by the Florida Housing Fi- nance Corp. The initiative is known as the 9 percent pro- gram, referring to "the approximate percent- age of the eligible project costs that investors may claim on federal tax returns for a 10 year period," according to program material. In the past, that money has gone toward proj- ects such as Janie's Garden, a mixed-income complex built in north Sarasota to replace the horribly dilapidated Janie Poe apartments. Also in the past, private developers have at- tempted to convince local governments to sup- port their projects in the competition, which could have shut out the Housing Authorities. Don Hadsell, the director of the county's Of-

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