AHC Partners with Church to Create Affordable Housing in Alexandria, VA

St-James

(November 5, 2015 – Arlington, VA) – AHC Inc., a leading developer of affordable and mixed-income housing in the mid-Atlantic region, closed yesterday on the $8.5 million purchase of a three-acre site in the City of Alexandria’s Beauregard neighborhood.

The new development, St. James Plaza, will transform property owned by the St. James United Methodist Church and the Bi-District Office of the Northern Virginia Methodist Church into 93 affordable apartments adjacent to market-rate homes.

AHC will construct a 93-unit affordable rental building on a portion of the land and sell the balance of the site to a third party developer that will construct market-rate housing. The affordable rental apartments will be a mix of efficiencies, one-, two- and three-bedroom units at rents ranging from 40% to 60% of the Area Median Income.  The church has moved its place of worship to an adjacent property, and the office building is moving to a new location in the area as well.

“AHC has a track record of creating land for housing in innovative ways,” said AHC President and CEO Walter D. Webdale. “Combining forces with an established community organization like St. James to carve out a viable parcel of land – particularly in a neighborhood like Beauregard that is losing so many affordable places to live – is a great opportunity.”

The new affordable units will be a welcome addition to Alexandria’s Beauregard neighborhood, which has lost a large number of low- and moderate-income apartments to new development over the last few years.

“The City is glad to be collaborating with nonprofit partners, like AHC, to develop 93 new units of affordable housing,” said Helen McIlvaine, acting director of the City’s Office of Housing.  “The St. James Plaza project will provide an important housing resource, including deeply subsidized units, for residents of the adjacent Beauregard area who may be impacted by future redevelopment.  This project successfully implements strategies proposed in the 2012 Beauregard Plan and the 2013 Housing Master Plan.”

The property, 5000 and 5001 Echols Avenue, is located in Alexandria’s west end adjacent to the neighborhoods included in the Beauregard Small Area Plan. The site sits across the street from the Northern Virginia Community College Alexandria Center and is within a quarter mile of the bustling Mark Center. Local schools, retail amenities and Inova Hospital are all within a two-mile radius.

The affordable building will include underground parking, a fitness center, and a community room for residents. AHC is also hoping to include space to provide early childhood services to children living in both the affordable building and the surrounding community.

The high-quality building will include Energy Star-certified kitchen appliances, high-efficiency, individually controlled HVAC systems, carpeted floors, and ceramic tile.

The land purchase is financed with a senior loan from NeighborWorks Capital and a subordinate loan from the City of Alexandria. The affordable housing development received an award of 9% competitive Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) from the Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA) in June 2015.

Construction is expected to begin in fall 2016.

##

Founded in 1975, AHC Inc. is a nonprofit developer of affordable housing in the mid-Atlantic region that provides quality homes and education programs for low- and moderate-income families. Based in Arlington, VA, AHC has developed more than 6,500 apartment units in 50 properties in Virginia and Maryland. AHC’s Resident Services program reaches 2,000 children, teens, adults and seniors each year through onsite education programs and activities.

 

ahc-inc-opens-83-new-affordable-apartments-on-columbia-pike

AHC Inc. Opens 83 New Affordable Apartments on Columbia Pike

ahc-inc-opens-83-new-affordable-apartments-on-columbia-pike

Dozens of supporters, community residents and local officials celebrated the grand opening of The Shell on May 14 in Arlington, VA.

AHC’s newest building provides 83 affordable new homes along Columbia Pike for individuals and families earning between 50% and 60% of the Area Median Income (AMI).

The six-story apartment building includes 5 three-bedroom apartments, 63 two-bedrooms, 10 one-bedrooms and 5 efficiencies. Nine of the apartments are handicap accessible and six are part of the permanent supportive housing program of Arlington County.

The demand for affordable housing in Arlington continues to grow. Since 2000, Arlington County has lost 13,500 market affordable apartments. Reflecting the ongoing need, The Shell’s waiting list quickly grew to more than 650 individuals and families before AHC stopped accepting additional applications.

Planning for The Shell began when AHC discovered a gas station at the corner of Columbia Pike and South Greenbrier Street in Arlington was available for sale. Always on the lookout for potential building sites, AHC began exploring the idea of combining the gas station property with undeveloped land that it owned next door and adjacent to its Harvey Hall Apartments. Several years later, that idea became a reality.

Today, the building features an 800-square-foot community room, a fitness room, ample underground parking and a plant-filled central courtyard.

AHC also incorporated several green features at The Shell to reduce electricity consumption and water usage. The building has a green roof as well as Energy Star appliances, energy efficient heating and air conditioning, and WaterSense faucets, showerheads, and toilets. An on-site storm water filtration system was installed to reduce runoff and improve the quality of rain water draining into local waters such as the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay.

“AHC is committed to developing top-quality buildings that not only provide welcoming homes for working families, but also include architectural elements and energy-efficient features that improve our residents’ quality of life, enhance the community and stand the test of time,” said Walter D. Webdale, AHC President and CEO.

Located at a busy corner along Columbia Pike, the Shell also includes 6,600 square feet of retail space. The building was the first project to receive approval under Arlington’s innovative Form Based Code, which encourages a blend of housing and commercial spaces to create a lively, walkable community.

“As Columbia Pike redevelops, the County is working to ensure that the Pike continues to be a vibrant place for people at all ages, stages and incomes,” said County Board Chair Mary Hynes.  “We’re proud that, by partnering with AHC using our affordable housing loan program (AHIF), our public-private partnership at The Shell will provide affordable housing AND retail for its residents and the greater neighborhood.”

Financing for the $32 million project included loans from Arlington County’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF), Capital One, Virginia Housing Development Authority, AHC Inc., and 9% Low-Income Housing Tax Credit equity from Hudson Housing Capital. Other partners include NeighborWorks America and EarthCraft Virginia.

The Shell was designed by Cunningham l Quill Architects and built by Harkins Builders Inc.

View More Grand Opening Event Photos

##

Founded in 1975, AHC Inc. is a nonprofit developer of affordable housing in the mid-Atlantic region that provides quality homes and education programs for low- and moderate-income families. Based in Arlington, VA, AHC has developed more than 6,500 apartment units in 49 properties in Virginia and Maryland. AHC’s Resident Services program reaches 2,000 children, teens, adults and seniors each year through onsite education programs and activities.

Innovative Financing Strategies

AHC-Inc-News-02-innovative-financing-strategies

Financing and developing affordable housing is challenging – especially in dense urban areas like the Washington, DC, metro region. To become more nimble in today’s competitive market, AHC Inc’s multifamily development team is creating innovative financing strategies that go beyond traditional affordable housing tools.

In Arlington, VA, AHC partnered with such organizations as Freddie Mac, Arlington County and the Low-Income Investment Fund (LIIF) to create financing structures that did not rely on the traditional affordable housing tools of Low Income Housing Tax Credits or tax-exempt bonds. The strategy helped AHC move quickly in a competitive marketplace to successfully preserve two mixed-income properties, The Serrano and The Spectrum, with a total of 380 units near the gentrifying Columbia Pike area.

And, in another non-traditional partnership, AHC joined with Housing Partnership Equity Trust (HPET), a social purpose real estate investment trust (REIT), to acquire Woodleaf, a 228-unit apartment community in Silver Spring, MD — the first such partnership in the DC region. HPET is the first affordable housing REIT created and managed by nonprofits; AHC is one of 12 nonprofit housing developers in the collaborative.

AHC also made full use of existing affordable housing tools by pulling together funding from a variety of sources. For instance, AHC combined Low Income Tax Credits, tax-exempt bonds and Historic Tax Credits to finance the $110 million renovation of Woodbury Park, a 1940s historic garden-style community with 364 mixed-income apartments in Arlington, VA. The extensive financing package did not require local housing funds from Arlington County’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF).

Photo: Woodleaf in Silver Spring was the first acquisition by a social purpose real estate trust in the DC region.

Affordable Housing for an Aging America

AHC-Inc-News-06-affordable-housing-for-an-aging-america

Every day, 10,000 Baby Boomers turn sixty five years old.  In Arlington, one in five residents will be 60 or older by 2020.  As the number of senior citizens grows, affordable living opportunities for older Americans are becoming an increasing need.

AHC currently operates three apartment communities for senior citizens. All provide programs and staff to help residents age in place successfully.

 Hunter’s Park, in Arlington’s Cherrydale neighborhood, opened in 2005 with 74 one-bedroom apartments. The property includes welcoming common areas, including a living room with fireplace, library and rooftop patio. Activities abound, including exercise classes, book club, gardening workshops and special birthday celebrations. The vibrant environment helps keep seniors active and engaged.

MonteVerde Apartments, in Baltimore, serves 301 senior citizens and physically disabled individuals. AHC purchased and completely renovated the property in 2008. Today, AHC’s Resident Services staff help connect residents with the local services they need to live independently and improve their quality of life.  The property provides a shuttle service to local retailers, a library, arts and crafts room and game room lounges, nutrition and wellness programs.

 Charter House, in Silver Spring, MD, has 212 apartments for individuals aged 55 and older. Located near the Silver Spring Metro station, the 14-story building is within walking distance of lots of shops and activities. AHC assumed management responsibilities in mid-2014 and is working on building stimulating programs and activities with such partners as the Fenwick Foundation, which provides a wide variety of social programs and field trips for AHC’s senior citizens at other properties.

 Photo: AHC operates three communities for aging Americans.

Creative Smart Growth Strategies

AHC-Inc-News-08-creative-smart-growth-strategies

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).