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Summer Camp Keeps Children Active and Engaged

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It’s hard to say who has more fun during AHC’s six-week Summer Camp – the staff or the children.

AHC Resident Services staff are hard at work getting ready for this year’s Summer Camp. The theme is going to revolve around the arts, which will encourage lots of creativity and fun along with plenty of opportunities for engaging educational activities – the secret to AHC’s Summer Camp success.

Last year’s theme was Outdoor Exploration and the staff outdid themselves with wonderful field trips and activities.

The end-of-the-camp event, designed to give students a taste of camping and the outdoors, included a variety of activities that were brand new to most of our kids – like putting together a tent, roasting marshmallows, hiking, and trying to catch a fish.

There was lots of learning going on, too, during Summer Camp. But most of it was designed to be fun so students never felt like they were “in school.” For instance, one activity combined math, bowling and giant dice.

The children’s progress was very positive. Ninety-four percent of campers showed no loss in reading skills and 83 percent showed no loss in math facts. Plus, 100 percent of campers enjoyed learning how to cook and eat s’mores!

Photo: AHC’s Summer Camp makes learning fun

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Creative Smart Growth Strategies

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One of the biggest advantages of smart growth – housing built in walkable neighborhoods located near mass transit, grocery stores, and shops – is that it creates desirable communities and draws homebuyers. A National Association of Realtors survey found that more than half of respondents preferred a smart growth neighborhood to a suburban subdivision.

But smart growth demand also can have a downside – limited housing stock and high development costs — which makes building transit-oriented affordable housing particularly challenging.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

In Arlington, Va., AHC Inc. has a track record of using creative ideas to build affordable housing in dense urban areas, where land can be expensive and scarce. Some of its approaches – from land swaps to creating land – could be replicated elsewhere as well. AHC’s experience provides examples of how affordable housing can be a key part of a smart growth strategy, helping to reach the goal of creating communities that are diverse, as well as desirable.

Here’s a look at some of AHC’s projects and strategies – and some of the challenges overcome.

 Swapping Land

Community concerns about density and building heights are a common challenge in smart growth areas. To move forward such a stalled project, AHC engineered a land swap with a prominent developer to reconfigure a multi-pronged project that included affordable housing along with high-end townhouses and 450,000 square feet of office and retail space. The land swap moved the townhouses next to existing single-family homes and nestled AHC’s 90-unit, four-story building closer to the retail and commercial spaces. AHC’s building, The Jordan, which encloses a welcoming courtyard, is separated from the larger buildings by an urban greenway.

 Using Nontraditional Spaces

With space at a premium in Arlington’s dense Metro Corridor, AHC transformed a parking lot next to an existing affordable garden-style apartment complex (Woodbury Park) into twin nine-story buildings – one affordable and one market rate. The condo (The Park at Courthouse) helped subsidize the affordable housing apartments. A passerby couldn’t tell the difference in the buildings, which are connected by a brick-lined courtyard. The end result: On a site just 1/4 mile from the Courthouse Metro Station, AHC created The Frederick with 108 affordable apartments, a 4,300-square-foot community center with onsite Resident Services programs, underground parking, and play areas for children.

 Photo: Twin buildings – one affordable (The Frederick on the right) and one market-rate (The Park at Courthouse on the left). 

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AHC Named One of Best Places to Work

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We are so proud … AHC has been named one of the Best Places to Work in Virginia by the Virginia Business and Best Companies Group. AHC has also been recognized as one of the Best Nonprofits to Work for by Nonprofit Times for FOUR years in a row!

One program that contributes to our positive work environment is our Employee Wellness Incentive program. Now its 4th year, the optional program encourages employees to exercise regularly and make positive long-term lifestyle changes to improve their physical and mental well-being. In 2014, 34 staff members successfully completed the program.

Photo: 34 staff members successfully completed AHC’s Wellness Incentive program. 

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Top Ten 2015 Highlights

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Thank you for all your support in 2015 – It’s been a great year!

Thanks to your help, AHC Inc. had a banner year. We developed or renovated more than 1,500 affordable apartments, helped hundreds of our residents build stronger futures, and fostered countless community partnerships. Here are 10 of our favorite 2015 accomplishments:

  1. AHC developed, purchased or renovated more than 1,500 affordable apartments in the mid-Atlantic region. We opened the doors to two brand new apartment buildings, started or completed renovation of five existing affordable rental communities, and created new partnerships to create several additional affordable housing opportunities in the region. Read more.
  2. ALL of our high school seniors graduated and were accepted into college! Our After-School students and Summer Campers also thrived. Read more.
  3. We honored six amazing Volunteers of the Year for their dedication and commitment to our students. We are so grateful to them and to the more than 250 volunteers who work with our students each year. Read more.
  4. Thanks to the generous support of the community, we provided backpacks and school supplies to more than 900 students. Thank you!
  5. AHC repaid $2.5 million to Arlington County’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF), a revolving loan fun that has been one of Arlington’s most effective affordable housing development tools. Read more.
  6. 22 AHC Inc. apartment communities participated in our fire prevention campaign, Stand by Your Pan, to educate residents about fire safety. Watch video.
  7. We dedicated the Rinker Community Center to recognize Lora and Charlie Rinker for their many years of community service and affordable housing support. Read more.
  8. AHC was named One of the Top 50 Affordable Housing Owners by Affordable Housing Finance magazine.
  9. Walter D. Webdale, President & CEO, received the Housing Association of Nonprofit Developers’ Lifetime Achievement Award. Read more
  10. 62 AHC and AHC Management staff members successfully completed our in-house Wellness Incentive Program.
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AHC Posts $331M in Development in 2014

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As housing costs escalate and the number of affordable apartments dwindles, AHC is working hard to create innovative partnerships and financing opportunities to preserve and develop housing opportunities in the VA-MD-DC region.

In 2014, AHC’s multifamily development team closed on eight transactions with a total development value of $331 million and containing more than 1,400 units — pushing AHC’s total multifamily portfolio above 6,500 units.

AHC also has two affordable apartment projects under construction – the 83-unit Shell in Arlington is opening its doors to families this spring, and the 78-unit Jackson Crossing in Alexandria (opening late 2015).

Underscoring the complexity of today’s housing market, no two developments were alike.

AHC’s 2014 projects include the acquisition of six existing rental communities containing 975 apartments, construction of 76 rental townhomes, and the redevelopment of an existing AHC-owned, 364-unit, historic property.  The apartments are primarily located in the metro region’s high cost-of-living rental submarkets in Arlington, VA and Montgomery County, MD, along with developments in the District of Columbia and Baltimore.

The projects utilized a variety of financing strategies, reflecting the challenges involved in assembling funding in the current marketplace. Several transactions were completed with innovative financing structures that relied heavily on market-rate tools and deal structuring techniques.

The properties provide homes for households with a variety of incomes, ranging from conventional affordability levels (50% and 60% Area Medium Income) to workforce housing (80% AMI) to full market-rate homes.

 Photo: The Shell in Arlington opens its doors to families this spring.