- POLICY ACTIVATIONS
(left to right) Marie Muscella, Community Lodgings Board Chair; Russ Rosenberger, Past-President, HomeAid Northern Virginia; Wendell Chambliss, Executive Director, Freddie Mac Foundation; Bill Euille, Mayor, City of Alexandria; Lewis Birnbaum, Division President, Pulte Homes; Del Pepper, Councilwoman, City of Alexandria;and Bonnie Baxley, Executive Director, Community Lodgings
HomeAid Northern Virginia knows a thing or two about collaboration. Founded in 2001 by members of the Northern Virginia Building Industry Association, the organization has completed 86 projects by leveraging resources of the homebuilding community to conduct major renovations to properties that house the homeless.
Through its dynamic partnerships, HomeAid helps to significantly reduce construction costs to service providers, which allow for the redirection of dollars back into programs and services for homeless families and individuals. In addition to its commitment to the brick and mortar of the affordable housing community, HomeAid also operates Women Giving Back. Started in 2007, Women Giving Back is a program that has provided more than 50,000 items of clothing to women and children living in shelters throughout Northern Virginia.
In February of 2013, HomeAid and Pulte Homes, a HomeAid Builder Captain, celebrated the completion of one of the biggest renovation projects in HomeAid’s 13-year history: Community Lodgings, a ten-unit affordable apartment community for homeless families.
Pulte and its 33 trade partners (electricians, plumbers, etc.) completed a total interior demolition and rehabilitation of the property, reconfiguring it into a living space that would better serve and accommodate local homeless families than that of the original building.
“It’s an absolutely gorgeous space,” said Bonnie Baxley, the executive director of Community Lodgings. “Even more importantly, it adds another dimension in terms of how we monitor families and provide for them. This raises the bar, and anytime you raise the bar, it inspires people to do better.”
The construction process proved to be a true collaborative experience, especially among the building community. With the support of trade partners donating far more than originally anticipated and additional trade partners joining in, the renovation came in under budget and on schedule.
“With a building of this size and age, it’s hard to know what we might find,” said John Goodwin, resource planning manager, Pulte Homes. “But there were no big surprises, and everyone just threw themselves into the project. The team worked well together and was able to overcome obstacles quickly and efficiently.”
One of the major issues that HomeAid works to overcome is the cost of housing – even affordable housing – for the working homeless. With its HAND membership, the group is able to tap into information and resources that allows them to be responsive to the changing needs of the Northern Virginia community. HAND provides an important pipeline of information that influences HomeAid policy and programming decisions.
“Our HAND membership allows us to put forth a more coordinated and well-informed effort to comeback homelessness.” – HomeAid Northern Virginia
HAND is pleased to spotlight HomeAid Northern Virginia, which certainly contributes to our organization’s COLLABORATION, INNOVATION and TRANSFORMATION for the metropolitan area!
We know that affordable housing can be used as a platform for helping low-income families to move up and out of poverty, but Alexandra Nassau-Brownstone, Director of Resident Services for Somerset Development Company, also works to use housing as a platform to reach residents in need of essential services.
Nassau-Brownstone has directed Somerset Development’s resident services program since 2009. She creates holistic on-site resident service programming – including systems for financial and outcomes tracking and measurement – and works to build community partnerships for the organization. As a developer, Somerset has invested more than $429 million in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore by creating retail spaces, new community buildings and more than 1,750 affordable residential apartments in the cities.
At the program level, Somerset believes resident services are part of the property management team. This dynamic works to create a healthier, happier and more stable housing community.
What’s the biggest challenge in your industry, and how have you addressed it?
The greatest challenge in the industry continues to be sustainable funding. At Somerset we’ve been successful in pairing a limited budget that comes from a percentage of the property’s cash flow with resources that partners can bring on-site. However, this model really works if there are partners in the community that are funded to work at our sites. For the most part, we’ve been fortunate to work with properties that are in resource rich neighborhoods – meaning full of organizations and agencies that are able to help our residents. However, not every neighborhood has that same level of services, or access to services, and without those resources communities suffer.
One way to help address this is better collaboration and communication with city agencies. Healthcare and social service funds could be used to help build housing-based resident services programs. It’s essential city agencies work together to collaborate and create mechanisms for funding services that reach residents.
What’s the one piece of advice you wish you had gotten sooner?
It’s essential to slow down and talk with those you are serving. We get caught up in what the funders are looking for or what the next deadline is or with what we believe the bigger vision of our work to be, and the voices of those we’re serving gets drowned out.
It’s a simple thing, but really listening to someone is how to connect with them. This is the greatest inspiration and the only way to build trust. And trust is the first step towards a successful community program.
How has being a member of HAND helped you with your community development efforts?
HAND’s forum for exchange and learning has been a wonderful resource over the years. It has provided a platform for peer exchanges on accessing healthy food, the earned income tax credit and free tax preparation, outcome measurement and funding. These are important training opportunities for our onsite coordinators and resident service practitioners.
Additionally, we also appreciate HAND’s commitment to, and celebration of, resident services. We have been the beneficiaries of HAND’s summer intern program which really helped us to ensure a strong summer program for our youth. Also, we were thrilled to celebrate HAND’s recognition of one of our Hubbard Place youth for her artwork depicting “home” at the last HAND annual event.
Click here for more information on Somerset Development Company.
When Henson Development Company and Mission First Community Development Corporation needed legal assistance to help them navigate the acquisition and development process for an affordable housing community in Baltimore’s historic Fells Point, the two groups chose Ballard Spahr – a national law firm with one of the largest housing groups in the country.
Ballard Spahr represents both nonprofit and for-profit affordable housing developers, tax credit investors and syndicators, housing authorities, and state housing agencies with all aspects of affordable housing transactions and has advised clients from every “side” of the table on thousands of deals including tax credit, bond, and mixed-finance transactions, among others. Due to its extensive experience, Ballard Spahr is in an ideal position to identify and solve challenges unique to the community development industry.
Henson and Mission First CDC tapped Ballard Spahr in 2012 to help with the acquisition and redevelopment process for a Baltimore City police station originally built in 1920. Known as the Fells Point Station, the property would provide nearly 50 affordable apartments and ground-floor retail space and would be the first new construction in the area in more than 50 years.
The housing lawyers in Ballard Spahr’s Baltimore office started by helping obtain city zoning approvals and continued with the project through due diligence and the financial closing. Fells Point Station was financed with low income housing tax credits (LIHTC), historic credits and several other sources of financing. The development also required that a condominium structure be established to accommodate the ground floor retail space.
As with many other affordable housing projects, the complexity of the transaction threatened the viability of the project at several points during the process; however, through the determination and creativity of the developers, the project became a success. While Ballard Spahr has been involved in much larger projects, the firm is proud of its involvement with Fells Point Station because it illustrates that developing urban-infill affordable housing communities is possible with perseverance, key partnerships, proper structuring and the assistance of counsel adept at handling the diverse aspects of these complex deals.
Ballard Spahr gleans “lessons learned” from every project, and, through its HAND membership, the firm is able to share these lessons on a broad scale with other Washington, D.C. metro area community development professionals. The lessons are not always about legal challenges. Ballard Spahr also works to identify and solve logistical challenges, timing hurdles and other impediments that could affect the closing of a transaction. HAND helps the firm and its clients stay connected to others in the development community to identify those challenges and address them proactively. Also, through HAND’s industry and networking events, Ballard Spahr has learned from other members about their experiences with new financing programs and has been able to connect with agency staffers to discuss priorities and initiatives.
HAND is pleased to spotlight Ballard Spahr, which certainly contributes to our organization’s COLLABORATION, INNOVATION, and TRANSFORMATION for the metropolitan area!
In keeping with its name, Victory Housing is committed to winning for its residents, its supporters and the community it serves. Since 1979, Victory Housing has operated as the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington’s nonprofit development arm for affordable housing in the D.C. Metropolitan region.
Missioned to build, acquire, renovate, manage and operate affordable housing – and related services – for low- to moderate-income seniors and low-income families, Victory Housing owns 29 communities, comprised of almost 2,000 apartments.
Recently, the developer opened another apartment community located in the city of Rockville, a municipality known to have a marked need for affordable housing. Victory Court was officially dedicated on October 24, 2013. An 86-unit mixed-income apartment community for seniors 62+, Victory Court provides upscale living for seniors needing affordable housing. The property provides 45 one-bedroom apartments for households earning 50% or below of AMI and 20 two-bedroom apartments with households earning at or below 80% of AMI. The remaining apartments are leased as market rate units.
The property was made possible through collaboration with community and fiscal partners, such as Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Affairs, the Housing Opportunities Commission of Montgomery County and Capital One, North America.
Aside from its affordability and close proximity to Rockville Town Square, the Rockville Metro and MARC stations and other amenities, the developers worked very hard to create a “home” like atmosphere at Victory Court by providing the residents activities seniors come to need and expect within a comfortable home-like setting. The property provides its residents a well-rounded lifestyle experience by providing an on-site library, community room, café, arts and crafts room, wellness center and exercise room.
Victory Housing finds its HAND membership an invaluable resource in helping it deliver on its mission. Due to the informational sessions, communications and networking opportunities HAND provides, Victory Housing has learned a great deal about the broader affordable housing community within the region.
HAND is pleased to spotlight Victory Housing, which certainly contributes to our organization’s COLLABORATION, INNOVATION, and TRANSFORMATION for the metropolitan area!
Dantes Partners offers a variety of services to the Washington, D.C. affordable housing community. The company’s success is driven both by its technical expertise and its ability to extract value in even the most complex transactions. Such was the case with a slate of affordable housing properties the Dantes Partners recently worked on in order to create affordable homes for a variety of people in need, ranging from seniors to renters with low-incomes to professionals looking to purchase a home.
With partner Roadside Development, Dantes Partners is currently constructing a 90-unit senior housing development within a mixed-use property, which includes direct access to a new Giant grocery store and public transportation. As developer/owner Dantes Partners identified and closed the acquisition financing and the structured financing. The company also used a wide array of additional funding tools to make this development a reality, including LIHTC, soft debt from the Department of Housing and Community Development, and tax exempt bonds from DC Housing Finance Agency.
Notably, Dantes Partners recently won D.C.’s solicitations for proposals for the acquisition and development of a 36-unit for-sale multifamily property. Originally abandoned, the building was in need of substantial renovation. By using private equity and conventional debt, Dantes Partners has transformed the building into a green, transit-oriented, affordable and workforce condominium community.
Since its founding, Dantes Partners and its Managing Principal and Founder Buwa Binitie have closed more than $225 million of unconventional real estate transactions and created more than 700 workforce and affordable housing units.
Buwa Binitie (pictured above), Managing Principal and founder of Dantes Partners, noted “We have been successful in adding value beyond the numbers to these properties.”
The company has found that its HAND membership is invaluable, specifically the HAND-sponsored trainings and insights into market dynamics.
HAND is pleased to spotlight Dantes Partners, who certainly contribute to our organization’s COLLABORATION, INNOVATION, and TRANSFORMATION!
Peoples Consulting, LLC provides research, policy, advocacy and real estate development consultancy services to Washington, D.C. area community development organizations. Since 2009, Peoples offers a broad array of services to its development partners, including orchestrating advocacy campaigns, structuring and securing financing for affordable housing and community spaces and helping to navigate regulatory and government processes. While specializing in these varied aspects of community development, Peoples is also able to provide all of these differentiated development components simultaneously, a unique aspect that serves its clients well.
In partnership with Sheridan Ventures, Peoples recently co-consulted on the rehabilitation of a Jubilee Housing property located in DC, an exceptional community which was being designed to provide needed affordable housing with supportive services for women returning from incarceration in the District.
Extremely low-income individuals re-entering society after incarceration have critical challenges to overcome including physical and mental health issues, poor job skills and history, and severed family ties, among others. Additionally, housing serving this vulnerable population is extremely hard to finance due to bleak long-term revenue projections and the residents’ own inability to consistently, if at all, pay rent until they are gainfully employed, and even then, rent payments may be relatively small.
“Funding, such as rent subsidies used to operate properties long-term, is often in short supply and/or are for relatively brief terms, like service subsidies and contracts,” said Angie Rodgers, Peoples Consulting. “All these factors can give extreme heartburn to anyone who might invest in your project!”
But invest, they did. An amazing number of public, for-profit and nonprofit partners came together to ensure Jubilee was successful with the venture. While navigating the complex levels of funding needed for the community, Peoples was also able to help its client make the public policy case highlighting the need for supportive housing for women re-entering society. Despite the continual and complicated development process, Peoples was able to maintain their client’s vision for the final product.
Success was realized earlier this month when 10 women began to move into the beautifully rehabbed property in Northwest DC. As proof to the winning model, a second property focusing on men re-entering society will be completed by the end of the year!
Some of the top benefits Peoples enjoys from its HAND membership are organizational training, peer networking and a strong affordable housing platform for regional issues.
“HAND is a consistent source of valuable information relaying what’s happening in the different parts of the region that affects the issues we’re working on,” said Rodgers. “Similarly, we have been able to turn to HAND to highlight issues we are involved with that need a broader audience than what we could reach on our own.”
Through its information sharing and events, HAND helps Peoples stay on top of needed industry intelligence.
HAND is pleased to spotlight Peoples Consulting, LLC, who certainly contribute to our organization’s COLLABORATION, INNOVATION and TRANSFORMATION!
We are pleased to showcase Homes for America (HFA) as the first HAND Membership Spotlight. Its work with the award winning community Cottages and Gardens at Chesapeake in Elkton, Maryland is only one of HFA’s notable accomplishments; however, this innovative rural community has definitely helped transform the affordable housing options in the small town community.
As a developer of affordable rental and homeownership opportunities for low-and moderate-income families in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania, HFA specializes in providing housing options to special needs populations that include needed services to enhance the quality of life for the residents. Additionally, HFA has a sound history of partnering with other nonprofits who work with special needs populations to help the organizations carry out their development goals, and over time increase their capacity to develop or manage affordable rental communities.
In December 2012 HFA opened Cottages and Gardens at Chesapeake, a 98 unit mixed-use development that serves seniors with low-incomes, persons with disabilities and market-rate residents and families. What was particularly innovative about the development was that HFA preserved the affordable housing components by combining three existing adjacent rental communities and putting them under one financing structure. HFA obtained State and Federal approval to maintain existing occupancy restrictions in the special needs affordable apartments while continuing to operate the remaining apartments as general occupancy. Even though these two separate housing options (one affordable and one market-rate) were under one ownership structure and one financing plan, the everyday operations are totally separate.
“The more than 20-year old property now has new life and energy,” said Nancy Rase, president and CEO, HFA. “Before the rehabilitation, there was no community space for the general occupancy housing residents. The new community building has space for activities and programs for children…The creation of the eight new apartments helped in making the community accessible, particularly for the aging seniors.”
During the redevelopment stage, HFA made special structural enhancements that ensured all residents, whether seniors or children, would be comfortable with their new and/or improved homes. Additionally, there were extensive green and energy-saving improvements incorporated during the rehabilitation which has provided substantial savings for the residents and the owner.
The Cottages and Gardens at Chesapeake has won the Charles L. Edson Low Income Housing Tax Credit Coalition Award for Rural Housing and the Affordable Housing Finance Reader’s Choice Award, Best Rural Housing. Yet, despite its great accomplishments, HFA gives HAND credit for helping them keep its ear-to-the-ground on development and financing updates in the region.
“Development is regional in nature, and our HAND membership enables us to be current on what’s happening in a large part of the region, in which we work,” said Rase. “The HAND newsletter ensures that we never miss a major NOFA or funding round in the region. As more and more public agencies post notices on websites in lieu of sending email notices, the HAND information is ever more important and something on which we have come to rely.”
HAND is pleased to spotlight Homes for America, who certainly contribute to our organization’s COLLABORATION, INNOVATION, and TRANSFORMATION!