Imagine a federally financed economic development project that clears away slums, helps local businesses, makes jobs for low-income people, or helps the businesses that sell to them.
If you’re picturing a luxury golf and recreation center, your name is probably Wayne Rosen, a South Florida developer who will ask Tuesday for $3.5 million in federal assistance to rebuild a country club in Homestead, an agricultural hub halfway between Miami and Key Largo, on a property he already bought and closed last year.
Of the 25 items eligible for a federal loan under Section 108 of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, only one makes explicit mention of large development projects by private, for-profit companies. Otherwise, Section 108 loans, which are regulated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), are primarily intended to be used on public works projects, neighborhood nonprofit organizations, direct assistance programs for low- and moderate-income people, and other pressing community needs.
For a private for-profit company like Rosen’s Shores Development to qualify for the money, the planned project must “[eliminate] slums and blight,” meet an urgent community need, aid local businesses, create “jobs for low- and moderate-income persons” or “provide goods or services needed by, and affordable to” those persons.
A “world-class golf course,” as Rosen calls it, might not fit that particular bill.
But the mega developer is promising that his project will create jobs and, so far, the Homestead City Council seems to agree. The local press, on the other hand, is questioning his level of influence in the Miami suburb.
A new investigative report from the Miami Herald found that Rosen and his business associates have contributed over $45,000 to Homestead City Councilors in this election cycle alone. Rosen has also loaned money to one Homestead city councilman for a failed fish restaurant and sold a Mercedes to a former Homestead mayor’s wife at a reduced price. Both of those actions prompted ethics investigations, and both of those investigations cleared Rosen of any wrongdoing.
“We’re going to work hard to help train employees and will be advertising in the Homestead area,” Rosen told the Herald. “Locals will be targeted for employment.”
Rosen did not immediately return The Daily Beast’s request for comment submitted to his company Shores Development via email Monday afternoon.
The HUD website lists examples of Section 108 projects. In 2010, the most recent year for which data is available, HUD doled out over $165 million in loans to projects like a California community center, a North Carolina small-business loan program, and a Vermont recreational center. Money was given to private corporations and developers, too, but generally to revitalize downtown areas.
Rosen’s project is not in downtown Homestead but in Keys Gate, a wealthier section of the city, with a higher median income, separated from the city’s many trailer parks by Florida’s Turnpike. According to the Herald, 30 percent of the Homestead population lives below the poverty line but in the gated community of Keys Gate, property values range between $250,000 and $500,000. Rosen bought the Keys Gate Golf and Country Club in 2014 and closed it shortly thereafter, citing poor maintenance and a lack of players.As the Herald notes, Rosen’s proposal seems likely to go through, especially as he has a long history of approvals from the Homestead City Council.One city councilor who received $23,150 from Rosen and his business partners this election cycle told the paper, “I think it’s not only a win-win for Keys Gate but for the entire Homestead community. I view it as something that’s great that will spur economic development in the community.”