Plans for An Affordable Housing in Downtown Durham Just Got More Expensive | News

Plans for An Affordable Housing in Downtown Durham Just Got More Expensive

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DHIC AND SELF-HELP VENTURES FUND
  • DHIC and Self-Help Ventures Fund
The Durham City Council learned more details Thursday about plans for a mixed-use affordable housing development next to Durham Station.

Among the updates: The project has gotten more expensive and the number of affordable units planned has grown slightly.

In October, the council approved a concept including affordable housing, office space, parking and commercial space for the site, which is at the intersection of Jackson and Pettigrew streets. The approved concept called for eighty units of affordable housing, the maximum number that could be built given how low-income housing tax credits are awarded. But, explained Michael Rodgers, with nonprofit housing developer DHIC Inc., that formula has been changed, allowing for two more apartments.

Sixty-one of the units would be targeted for people earning 60 percent of the area median income or less and the remaining twenty-one would be for people earning at or below 30 percent of the area median income, which is $73,300 for a family of four. Other plans include 61,500 square-feet of commercial space, 11,930 square-feet of office space, structured parking and a plaza.

The development team (made up of DHIC and Self-Help Ventures Fund) had estimated the city would need to kick in $2.8 million to make the project happen, in addition to conveying the property for $1. Rodgers explained Thursday that the team has done some more detailed planning and now estimates the funding gap at $3.6 million. The increase includes additional parking, design considerations necessitated by the city's Unified Development Ordinance, and inflation, since construction won't begin until 2019.



"This is kind of a byproduct of how fast we've been growing without taking into account affordable housing," said council member DeDreana Freeman, calling the hefty cost "a tax on how we've been irresponsible."

Overall, its a $17 million project, a price tag owing largely to the fact that the development is located in an urban area — a factor that also makes for an unorthodox housing tax credit application. Usually, tax credit projects don't include office and retail space and structured parking all on a small downtown lot, explained Karen Lado, assistant director of strategy for the city's community development department.
Plans for a mixed-use affordable housing development at the intersection on Jackson and Pettigrew streets in downtown Durham. - DHIC AND SELF-HELP VENTURES FUND
  • DHIC and Self-Help Ventures Fund
  • Plans for a mixed-use affordable housing development at the intersection on Jackson and Pettigrew streets in downtown Durham.

"I think it's safe to say that Durham does not like to do the easy projects," Lado said, making mention of the pre-K classrooms and senior housing at Whitted School and Southside's mixed-income rental and home ownership development.

"We are really pushing the envelope of what an urban tax credit project looks like," she said. "That's part of our challenge— that we're forging new ground."

Despite the hurdles, there was broad support of the project on the largely new council, although a few members cautioned that the city needs to take a more wholesale approach to affordable housing in order to avoid spending so much on one project.

"Now that we are discussing a comprehensive, strategic affordable housing plan, my hope is that Jackson Street is not the norm," said Mark-Anthony Middleton. "Relative to the cost of the project, I think the affirmation of our city's values makes this project worth it."

At its January 2 meeting, the council is expected to vote on an option contract conveying the land to the development team and a resolution in support of the project. The team will submit a preliminary tax credit application in mid-January and ask the city for a funding commitment in April. Pending the award of tax credits around August 2018, the development is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2020.

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