Six Properties to Receive Novogradac Developments of Distinction Award

Published by Caroline Gallegos on Monday, October 7, 2019
Journal cover thumb October 2019

From converting a rundown hotel to affordable housing to rehabilitating housing structures that existed for more than half a century, the six winners of the 2019 Novogradac Journal of Tax Credits Developments of Distinction (DOD) Awards exhibit the breadth of affordable housing incentives that change their communities.

The awards recognize excellence and outstanding achievement in the preservation or creation of affordable rental housing in low-income communities using the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC), and/or tax credit developments using the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) financing. Awards are given in six categories: preservation of existing public housing, preservation of existing affordable rental housing, family housing, rural community impact, metropolitan community impact and special needs population. 

Winners in all six categories will be honored at the Novogradac 2019 Credit and Bond Financing for Affordable Housing Conference Oct. 3-4 in New Orleans. To be eligible, developments were placed in service between Oct. 31, 2017, and June 14, 2019. 

The following are the winners in the six categories: 

Preservation of Existing Public Housing: Ocean Bay (Bayside) Apartments 

Ocean Bay is a large conversion by New York City Housing Authority under HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program, which allows public housing authorities to access private capital to meet needs while protecting long-term affordability. 

Due to the complexity of the site, the fact that Ocean Bay houses 4,000 residents and includes 24 buildings, and the amount of capital needed to complete the renovation, RDC Development required a complex funding structure of public and private sources made possible by RAD and LIHTCs. 

Residents were not displaced during the renovation and all apartment renovations included new kitchens, bathrooms, flooring and fixtures. The buildings received a facelift as well, which included public hallway improvements, new elevators, a floodwall, solar energy panels and new boilers. Amenities were improved with the development and implementation of a comprehensive social services program that will greatly improve the lives of residents. 

“This is the largest single-site public housing conversion and a model for all other RAD deals,” said Tom Dixon, DOD Awards judge and vice president of acquisitions for Boston Capital. 

Preservation of Existing Affordable Rental Housing: Mt. Baker Village Preservation

The Mount Baker Village rehabilitation development provides two prime examples of LIHTCs preserving both a historic building and a historic and culturally important tenant base. The development in Seattle was built in 1957 as garden-style apartments. The property was purchased by Mt. Baker Housing Association in 1988, which made early use of the LIHTC program in Washington to rehabilitate the community. 

Mt. Baker Village

Image: Courtesy of Mt. Baker Housing
Mt. Baker Village won a 2019 Developments of Distinction Award for the preservation of existing affordable rental housing.

LIHTC financing helped Mt. Baker Housing Association reimagine the late-1950s garden-style apartments into a 21st-century community that is close to local transit, grocery stores, schools and community-based organizations. The newly renovated development includes 156 low-income apartments across nine buildings  for people who make 50 or 60 percent of the area median income (AMI). 

“Mount Baker Village is a great example of how to keep a project in the program through the years,” said Dixon.

Family Housing: Village at Westerly Creek 3

The Village at Westerly Creek 3 (VWC3) in Aurora, Colo., is one of the largest public housing developments in the country to be completed without the use of HOPE VI funding. VWC3 is the third and final development in a three-phase rehabilitation process that converted 130 public housing apartments into 194 new units of affordable family and senior homes.

Village at Westerly Creek 3

Image: Courtesy of the Housing Authority of the City of Aurora.
The Village at Westerly Creek 3 development won a 2019 Development of Distinction Award for family housing.

VWC3 provides an opportunity to respond to the community’s need for affordable housing for larger families and seniors. The development used a combination of tax-exempt private activity bonds and federal and state LIHTCs to provide nearly 52 percent of the construction cost. The VWC3 development sent aside 11 percent of its homes for households earning less than 30 percent of the AMI, and 89 percent of the homes are for people earning up to 60 percent of the AMI. 

“[It’s] impressive that they were able to do this without using HOPE VI funding,” said Michael Snowden, a DOD judge and vice president of asset management for Highridge Costa Housing Partners.

Rural Community Impact: Big Chair Lofts 

Third Wave Housing/Cohen-Esrey Development Group  used both 4 percent and 9 percent LIHTCs to convert a historic furniture mill in Thomasville, N.C., into 139 affordable homes called Big Chair Lofts.

The development offers similar amenities to other market-rate lofts, including a two-story community space, a movie theater and a fitness center. Included in these amenities is after-school care and financial literacy courses. 

Big Chair Lofts

Image: Courtesy of John Teague
Big Chair Lofts won a 2019 Development of Distinction Award for rural community Impact.

In 2016, the development lost its original tax credit investor, but pushed forward using its own funds and with cooperation from the bond investor and other stakeholders. A new tax credit investor was found and the full funding package closed in August 2017. 

“A beautiful development of an old mill,” said Philip Melton, a DOD judge and executive vice president and national director of affordable housing and FHA lending for Bellwether Enterprise. “I love the way they kept a lot of the historical look inside the building and incorporated into the overall design.”

Metropolitan Community Impact: Boulder Pines Community Campus

The Boulder Pines Community Campus in Las Vegas is home to more than 800 residents. The developer of the property, Nevada HAND, used both 4 percent and 9 percent LIHTCs to generate funding for the development. 

Boulder Pines Community Campus

Image: Courtesy of Nevada HAND INC
The Boulder Pines Community Campus won a Developments of Distinction Award for metropolitan community impact.

The Boulder Campus used a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) worth $5.1 million to build a Boys and Girls Club and the Lutheran Social Services of Nevada headquarters in addition to the 264 homes already funded from LIHTCs. The campus is also co-located with Mater Academy, a K-8 charter school and has a bus stop on the Boulder Highway transit corridor. 

“A great integration of community development with this property,” said Melton. “The school, Boys and Girls Club and transportation access all provide for significant benefits to the residents. A terrific development.”

Special Needs Populations: The Orchard

The Orchard was a rundown two-story hotel in Santa Ana, Calif., that Community Development Partners acquired, rehabilitated and converted into permanent housing for chronically homeless individuals and families. The Orchard is among Community Development Partners’ and the city of Santa Ana’s largest permanent supportive housing projects. 

The Orchard

Image: Courtesy of BREVIN BLACH
The Orchard housing development won a 2019 Developments of Distinction Award for special needs populations.

The development provides more than just housing for individuals and families. There are 72 apartments, 58 of which are studios. In addition, a local nonprofit runs a commercial kitchen on-site that provides two meals a day, five days a week. Food is sourced by donation or from the community garden in the back of the property. The community garden is operated by volunteer chefs who offer cooking classes in exchange for produce. 

“This project seems very meaningful,” said Rochelle Lento, DOD awards judge and member of Dykema Gossett PLLC. “[It] has seriously addressed community need, developed local partnerships, [and] is offering training and healthy lifestyle choices and living.”