Vote for affordable housing projects!

Affordable Housing Finance (AHF), an online magazine that covers affordable housing projects throughout the country, is about to close voting on its annual Reader’s Choice Awards. The contest is broken into nine categories, with 34 projects total projects in competition. Eligible developments were either completed in 2014 or will be completed in 2015. Each entry has a description, pictures, and a list of funding sources highlighting the unique ways in which developers, non-profit organizations and local governments are working together to create housing that is both affordable and well-designed. All of these buildings will be assets to their communities.

I have summarized some of my favorites:

1) Sage Park, in which Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has partnered with the developer BRIDGE Housing to create 89 units affordable to people earning between 30 and 60 percent of area median income, with a preference to school district employees.

2) At Woodrow Wilson Commons in Long Branch, New Jersey, developer  Pennrose Properties reconfigured an obsolete public housing block into a walkable, resident-friendly neighborhood. The 173-unit community is now a combination of townhomes, flats and duplexes. Market-rate units are scattered among public, affordable and special-needs homes. A one-acre rain garden as well as infiltration basins control a once-rampant flooding problem.

3) Lloyd House in Menominee, Michigan is a prime example of adaptive reuse. Originally a department store, it has also seen use as a manufacturing space. Now, Woda Group has transformed the building into a combination of low-income housing units, retail and supportive services. The developers have taken advantage of the large windows and marina views to create a stunning (and beneficial) new space.

4) Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood now has a new grocery store, as well as 72 units for families earning less than 60 percent of the area median income. The grocery store is Walmart, arguably not the best option given their history of mistreating workers; but, providing fresh low-cost food in former food deserts to people struggling to provide for their families is a definite plus.

5) Community HousingWorks (CHW) purchased Azusa Apartments in Azusa, California using quick bridge financing to prevent the affordable development from conversion into market-rate housing. All 88 families (including more than 100 children) were able to remain in place. CHW has since executed a permanent, long-term financing plan that ensures continued affordability. New funds have helped renovate all units and rehabilitate an aging community center, creating space for resident services.

6) Greater Grand Crossing (another Chicago neighborhood) is now home to Dorchester Art+Housing Collaborative, “the first arts-focused, mixed-income public housing redevelopment in the nation,” according to AHF. A former public housing development is now a 32-unit mixed-income rental complex and arts center. The nine market-rate units have a preference for artists, who much each commit to volunteer at least five hours per week toward community programming. Dance, music and other art classes are offered everyday to both on-site residents and the surrounding community. The area has a reputation for violence, making the open, inclusive atmosphere at the Collaborative a rare resource. 

7) Town Hall Apartments, in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood, is one of the nation’s first developments to target affordable housing to LGBT seniors. The building is a joint project of Heartland Housing and Center on Halstead and provides 79 units (all with project-based vouchers). All residents have access to the supportive services offered by the adjoining Center on Halstead. 

8) Mercy Housing California has partnered with St. Anthony Foundation’s Dining Room and Social Work Center in San Francisco to provide 90 new affordable units to low-income seniors at the Vera Haile Senior Community. Eighteen of these units are set aside for formerly homeless individuals. St. Anthony’s has a long history of providing meals to in-need individuals; the recent collaboration with Mercy Housing has allowed them to rehabilitate and expand their dining room so they can now serve more than 3,000 meals each day. The combined effects of housing and food will have a profound effect on the area’s low-income and senior populations.

9) The Courtyard in Fort Wayne, Indiana provides housing for youths aging out of foster care. These individuals often have not learned how to live on their own and lack life skills necessary to succeed as adults. The units in Fort Wayne are subsidized through the Fort Wayne Housing Authority as project-based Section 8 housing, so rent is capped at 30 percent of income. An on-site demonstration kitchen teaches residents to cook, and close collaboration with the nonprofit Specialized Alternatives for Families and Youth (SAFY) provides support such as job training and GED classes.

10) Hope Manor II, which opened last fall in Chicago, is one of the first complexes targeted toward veterans with children. Most veteran housing is small, designed for one or two people. Hope Manor II has units up to four bedrooms. Volunteers of America Illinois (the developer) provides supportive service, and there are on-site playgrounds for children. This is part of Mayor Emanuel’s overall plan to end veteran homelessness in Chicago by the end of 2015.

Remember, there are 24 projects not covered in this post, and all are amazing examples of affordable housing and community development. Votes are due by the midnight tonight, August 14. So start reading and make your choices!


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