NAHMA announces the winners of its annual Affordable Housing Vanguard Awards. These awards recognize newly developed or significantly rehabbed affordable multifamily housing communities that showcase high-quality design and resourceful financing.
The excellence exhibited throughout these multifamily developments dispels the notion that affordable housing cannot be an asset to their communities. Vanguard Award winners deliver powerful proof that affordable housing done well can transform neighborhoods as well as the lives of individual residents.
Winners of the Affordable Housing Vanguard Awards will be recognized at an awards ceremony at the NAHMA Biannual Top Issues in Affordable Housing 2023 Fall Conference in October in Washington, D.C.
The 2023 winners are:
Vanguard Award for New Construction
*Small Property (less than 100 units)
Avalon Villas, Phoenix, Ariz.; Management Company: Celtic Property Management LLC; Owner: Atlantic Development & Investments Inc., Scottsdale, Ariz.
*Large Property (more than 100 units)
425 Grand Concourse, Bronx, N.Y.; Management Company: Trinity Management LLC; Owner: Trinity Financial and MBD Community Housing, both in New York, N.Y.
Vanguard Award for Major Rehabilitation of an Existing Rental Housing Community
St Mary Manor, Jackson, Tenn.; Management Company: Wesley Living; Owner: St Mary Manor LLLP, Cordova, Tenn.
Vanguard Award for Major Rehabilitation of a Nonhousing Structure
Buena Esperanza, Anaheim, Calif.; Management Company: John Stewart Company; Owner: Jamboree Housing Corporation, Irvine, Calif.
Vanguard Award for Major Rehabilitation of a Historic Structure into Affordable Rental Housing
The Willows at East Greenville, East Greenville, Penn.; Management Company: Ingerman; Owner: Ingerman, Collingswood, N.J.
The Vanguard Awards demonstrate that exceptional new affordable housing is available across the country; confirm that the affordable multifamily industry is and must be creative and innovative if such exceptional properties are to be built given the financial and other challenges to development; highlight results of the private/public partnerships required to develop today’s affordable housing; and share ideas for unique design and financing mechanisms with industry practitioners to further stimulate creative development in the affordable multifamily industry.
The judges of this year’s Vanguard Awards were distinguished NAHMA members from across the country: Cindy Lamb, SHCM, NAHP-e, chief financial officer of CSI Support & Development; Noel Gill, NAHP-e, SHCM, CPO, executive vice president of Northwest Real Estate Capital Corp.; Jim McGrath, SHCM, NAHP-e, chairman of the board of PRD Management Inc.; Gianna Richards, SHCM, NAHP-e, president of Solari Enterprises Inc.; and Timothy Zaleski, SHCM, NAHP-e, past president of NAHMA.
A brief summary of the award-winning developments follows.
Watch a video: https://youtu.be/LSQICDtCZVw
South Phoenix has been the target of substantial revitalization efforts in recent decades that have brought significant commercial growth, bolstered home development, fostered home ownership, and enabled a wealth of services into a once depressed and heavily blighted area. Nonetheless, revitalization has not been without controversy, and the resulting gentrification of South Phoenix has encroached upon historic South Phoenix neighborhoods famous for their diversity and individuality.
Building affordable housing in areas such as this—those that are desirable and resource-dense—is an important way to remedy the wrongs of the past and an essential step toward social justice. Subsequently, the Avalon Villas Project was developed on a vacant parcel of land in the city of Phoenix’s Infill Development District. This area is service-enriched but faces a shortage of affordable housing options for families.
The project is a Transit Oriented Design development adjacent to the Broadway Road and 9th Avenue Valley Metro Bus stop, a high-capacity bus route (i.e., Route 45) connecting them with the heart of Phoenix’s integrated transit system.
Avalon Villas substantially added to the affordable housing stock in the area by providing 94 low-income units designed to address the needs of families with children. The property serves a mix of income ranges from 40% to 60% Area Median Income (AMI), with an average AMI of 50%.
Additionally, affordable housing developers in Phoenix have faced a longstanding challenge whereby potential residents demonstrating the highest need for housing, particularly those carrying housing vouchers and/or subsidies, were not efficiently prioritized on lease-up waitlists. This led to residents and families with the greatest need often waiting months, sometimes years, to find long-term housing. This preexisting challenge was highlighted and exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. New federal COVID relief funds provided via the city of Phoenix allowed the development team to get creative.
Atlantic Development & Investments Inc. and its affiliated management company, Celtic Property Management LLC, initiated a policy change within the organizations, revising the management plans at all affordable properties to give priority for available units to any persons on any voucher or subsidy program. This included considering mitigating circumstances to reduce barriers in the approval process.
As a result, the initial lease-up of Avalon Villas resulted in 47 of the 94 units being occupied by families on various subsidy programs, including six Emergency Housing Voucher families, three families on Rapid Rehousing (RRH), and 38 other families with Section 8 vouchers.
The Emergency Housing Voucher (EHV) program was made available through the American Rescue Plan Act. Through the EHV program, the city of Phoenix received 390 housing choice vouchers to assist individuals and families who are homeless, at risk of homelessness, fleeing, or attempting to flee, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or human tracking or were recently homeless or have a high risk of housing instability. At Avalon Villas, the development team worked with Community Bridges Inc., one of its community partners and a local continuum of care entry point service provider, to create an opportunity for EHV families to occupy the brand-new units being brought online. In total, six EHV families moved into Avalon during the lease-up, and the development team provides Community Bridges with free office space in the community building to provide free on-site health navigation and other case management services for these residents.
According to data mined from the Homeless Management Information System database, in the average of 2.7 years before moving into Avalon Villas, participants living in the six EHV units had a combined experience of 17 shelter stays, one experience with RRH, and three outreach attempts. Housing stability is evidenced by the fact that four of the six current EHV units are occupied by their original families, with an 80% retention rate over a roughly 18-month period. They have reestablished their lives in a stable and supported manner, ending the traumatic cycle of chronic homelessness for these families.
Avalon Villas comprises eight buildings, including a single-story community building and seven two-story residential buildings on a total of 4.6 acres. There are 94 units for an overall density of 23 dwelling units per acre. These include 52 two-bedroom units (890 square feet), 26 three-bedroom townhouses (1,240 square feet), and 16 four-bedroom townhouses (1,340 square feet). It received the final Certificate of Occupancy in April 2022.
Each spacious townhouse unit includes its own separate entry, contributing to a more welcoming and safer atmosphere for residents. Although rare in the market, the townhome concept is highly desired by families.
The central courtyard of Avalon Villas incorporates a custom-designed, water-conserving splash pad, multiple play structures targeting a range of ages and developmental levels, and outdoor exercise equipment that can be used by children and adults alike. Avalon Villas is a smoke-free development, and on-site management works with Smoke-Free Arizona to ensure a healthy living environment for all residents.
At the heart of Avalon Villas is an almost 3,000-square-foot community building with a Community Service Facility that includes an on-site Head Start classroom run by the Greater Phoenix Urban League Inc. through the city of Phoenix Birth to Five Program. Head Start provides free comprehensive early childhood development to income-eligible families and at-risk pregnant women and emphasizes school readiness and early learning to help promote positive childhood outcomes. Children of Avalon Villas residents are given first priority for classroom slots; the remaining slots are open to children from the greater community. The program supports children’s growth and development in a positive learning environment through various services, further engaging families in civic engagement activities and community outreach. The project is the first of its kind by a private developer in Arizona to include an on-site Head Start classroom in its Community Service Facility, a unique social service for residents that is replicable.
In addition, the Community Service Facility provides Emergency Housing Voucher and other residents access to supportive services through an office space for Community Bridges Inc. (CBI), one of the largest statewide providers offering fully integrated medical and behavioral health care in Arizona by providing a continuum of care that begins with prevention and continues for individuals and families through treatment and recovery. The CBI program works with individuals at the property and provides supportive services such as living skills, housing assistance, peer support, employment support, and health promotion. Services are individualized to meet the needs of the members.
On-site management also works with St. Mary’s Food Bank to provide a summer food program for children at the property when school is not in session, providing them with free and nutritious breakfast and lunches.
Avalon Villas also works continuously with community partners to provide additional general community and social support. For example, in December, the property worked with the Greater Phoenix Urban League and Buffalo Troopers to give every child under 12 at Avalon Villas a Christmas toy. Many received their first bicycles.
The development was constructed on time and within budget despite enduring COVID-related inflation in construction costs, labor shortages, supply chain challenges and an unanticipated historical discovery on the site. The unanticipated prehistorical discovery of a Hohokam habitation site dating from A.D. 950-1400 meant that the development team had to work closely with the city of Phoenix as they carried out Archaeological Cultural Resource/Section 106 Phase 2 testing. This data recovery identified 32 features, including two prehistoric canals, 14 cremations and one crematorium. Cultural resource monitoring was required during construction and involved coordination with the State Historic Preservation Office and local tribes. This work cost almost $1 million and delayed construction by nine months. Despite this, due to the team’s value engineering and close working relationship with subcontractors, the developer still brought the project in on time and within budget.
The Arizona Department of Housing provided federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) to the project, and the city of Phoenix Housing Department provided a HOME loan. The project is also one of only a few LIHTC projects that have successfully blended 9% credits, HOME funds, and a Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-insured 223(f) first mortgage provided by Northmarq in its capital stack. In March 2020, HUD eliminated its three-year rule on 223(f) applications, creating opportunities for borrowers to refinance stabilized multifamily properties much sooner after completion than previously available. Before the revision, HUD did not allow any new construction projects to qualify for 223(f) unless three years had passed from completion. The program was modified to facilitate greater opportunities to increase the supply of affordable and workforce housing. This exciting development provided a new funding source for the Avalon Villas team and a financing model for other developers.
425 Grand Concourse
Watch a video: https://youtu.be/ZCDxywbS3nA
The core value of the development team, particularly the work that Trinity Financial does in the affordable housing space, lies squarely at the intersection of equity and innovation—each informs the other. They believe housing is critical in providing stability, safety and opportunity for all individuals and families. Simply put, the development goal was to create quality, affordable housing that uplifts the residents while building a stronger community. The development team was joined by a vital Bronx-based development partner, MBD Community Housing Corporation, who provided unique insights and local expertise that guided and informed the development at every step. With MBD and other local partners providing invaluable contributions to shape and improve the vision at every step, the result is a community-focused development of 425 Grand Concourse (425 GC).
Located in the Mott Haven neighborhood of the Bronx, N.Y., 425 GC is a cutting-edge, mixed-use, mixed-income, 26-story, 277-unit tower that has emerged on a 29,000-square-foot site that previously contained the well-renowned but structurally unsound Public School (PS) 31.
Trinity believes they not only met the goal of providing high-quality, affordable housing but exceeded it by working with local officials, community-based organizations, and residents to develop solutions addressing the critical issues of affordability, sustainability, and the community’s diverse needs. All issues identified in our outreach to the community were addressed as part of the design process. For example:
- 425 GC is the largest passive house in the country, allowing residents to have clean, filtered air in a community with some of the highest asthma rates in the country.
- The building provides space for community services, including an educational space, a cultural space, outdoor recreation areas, community rooms, and a community supermarket to bring fresh food and produce to an underserved area.
- Deeply affordable housing covering 30% to 130% of Area Median Income (AMI) and 28 units designated for formerly homeless households.
- Elements like pervasive natural light, commissioned artwork by local artists and elegant, approachable and consistent design throughout create a welcoming environment. The resident amenities include two landscaped roof terraces, two communal lounges, a fitness center, laundry facilities on every floor, and bicycle storage.
Many innovative funding partners came together to facilitate this project, which is reflected in the development’s innovative financing structure. The total development cost for this project used New York City Housing Development Corporation (HDC) Tax-Exempt Volume Cap Bonds, HDC Recycled Bonds, as well as additional subordinate financing from HDC and New York City Department of Housing, Preservation & Development (HPD). Further, the project received funding from the Office of The Bronx Borough President. TD Bank provided the construction loan “credit enhancement” letter of credit and served as the tax credit equity investor. New York State Housing Finance Agency-Federal Housing Agency Risk Share (90/10) program provided credit enhancement on the permanent mortgage loan. The tax credit syndicator was Red Stone, and JP Morgan Chase acted as a participating construction lender.
It is worth noting that the project involves a complicated legal structure comprising eight separate condominium entities. This organizational structure allowed the project to access various financing sources that would not have typically been available. Trinity expects this to create a replicable model for other projects moving forward.
The project was completed on time and budget, but ensuring the development created responsive solutions for the community was equally important to the development team. Trinity engaged Bronx community stakeholders who outlined local concerns—noting years of disinvestment that resulted in critical inadequacies in education, health care services, nutritional foods, job opportunities, and open spaces. In response, Trinty put the community’s needs first and designed the project to address these needs. Additionally, by incorporating the mix of incomes, providing a variety of unit sizes, creating an energy-efficient, passive building, and securing diverse financing resources, Trinity was able to offer a financially feasible model for creating community-centered development for generations that also aids New York City (NYC) in reaching their goal of carbon-neutrality by 2050.
To make this project possible, the development team worked closely with city and local officials to create the legal framework through a zoning change that would allow the project to progress. Other challenges included dealing with the deteriorated but architecturally significant PS 31, which previously occupied the site. PS 31 was built in 1899 in the Collegiate Gothic style architecture but had passed the point of being able to be purposefully reused. In a nod to the site’s historical significance, beautiful gargoyles and architectural ornaments were carefully preserved from PS 31 and repurposed in the project’s educational facility for display—tying past and future together within the space.
Both a challenge and design innovation was the efficient use of the relatively small space. Located on a relatively small parcel of just .689 acres, Trinity wanted to create density without feeling cramped. The average population density in NYC is approximately 56 residents per acre in areas zoned for residential. 425 GC’s population was around 1,170—it would theoretically have required 21 acres. However, our design achieves a spacious feel in just two-thirds of an acre by using expansive windows, lots of natural light, and creating space for residents to unwind, including community rooms and two outdoor roof terraces. The design also orients the building in a north-south configuration instead of an east-west to minimize the building’s shadows onto the adjacent playground and park.
From an engineering standpoint, the passive house design will consume up to 70% less energy than a conventional housing project and is a significant innovation in a project of this size.
From a management standpoint, Trinity believes the measure of success is seeing the development from its residents’ perspectives. To ensure consistency, Trinity Management serves as the managing agent and had a seat at the table during the design process. Their resident experience helped to inform the interior design, services, and amenity packages. Their expertise and resident feedback were incorporated when selecting elevators, intercom systems, laundry facilities, and more. This feedback informed the choices around durability, ease of use and longevity. The management team is permanently located on-site and is invested in providing superior customer service to ensure the quality of the residents’ lives.
This site was unused and unoccupied, so no resident dislocation or relocations were required. The lease-up of the building went through NYC’s Housing Connect platform to ensure transparency and fairness. HPD and HDC assisted with outreach, screening, viewings, follow-ups, and reviews. 425 GC received over 60,000 applications for its 276 rental units and is renting at a record-setting pace.
As residents settle in, the management team continues to help their transition. This is particularly true for the formerly homeless residents coming from shelters who face additional challenges. For more complicated issues, Trinity partnered with a local nonprofit, BronxWorks. This level of service is why the management must remain on-site, assisting with all issues.
Additionally, as part of community engagement, Trinity included the provision and design space to bring critical services to the residents and community at large, including:
- A 4,000-square-foot Federally Qualified Health Center operated by Damian Family Care Center providing primary health care and dental services with no insurance requirements addressing the lack of access to health services to low-income residents in the area.
- A 30,000-square-foot space for a supermarket to bring fresh produce and provisions to a food desert area.
- A 1,200-square-foot cultural center to bring art, dance and other classes to the community.
- The newly designed 29,000-square-foot educational facility, operated by Hostos Community College, houses the nationally acclaimed Accelerated Study in Associate Programs, providing academic support services for low-income students.
- On-site resident services through the local nonprofit BronxWorks will support formerly homeless individuals and families.
425 GC centers around community—both within the building and the surrounding neighborhood. The management team works with local partners to lease the supermarket and cultural spaces to provide local employment opportunities and community amenities. With less than a 2% vacancy rate in the Bronx, the sliding scale of AMI was aimed to assist residents who had grown up in the neighborhood but were finding it impossible to secure housing that allowed them to stay in their neighborhood. Sustainably designed elements make the building a good neighbor by spurring investment in the area, lessening the impact of development, and reducing the carbon footprint.
In summary and to further emphasize the impact of the 425 GC project, HPD Commissioner Adolfo Carrión noted, “This (project) hits all the notes, all the sweet spots. This is health care, wellness, good wholesome living, art. You walk into the lobby, and it’s like you are walking into an art gallery. It gives dignity to these kids and these families and these people. All of it is tied together in this development. It really captures the spirit of what we are trying to do at HPD.”
St Mary Manor
Watch a video: https://youtu.be/vOCwMQLpOMM
The newly renovated St Mary Manor is a sprawling eight-story apartment complex in the heart of Jackson, Tenn. St Mary Manor is conveniently located within minutes of shopping and entertainment, including Casey Jones Village and the Carl Perkins Civic Center. The property is also situated close to a hospital and medical offices.
Originally built in 1980, the property had begun to age and needed modernization. Wesley Living began managing the property about 11 years ago and recognized the need for resident comfort as well as marketability and energy conservation. Wesley Living set its sights on seeking funding for the much-needed repairs and updating.
The main goal of the rehab project was to ensure the aged property would continue to be a thriving community and asset to the residents of Jackson, where residents would be proud to reside and call St Mary their home, and offer cutting-edge services and amenities consistent with a good quality of life. Planning and development took several years to engineer options for rehabbing the site. The site was refinanced and layered with Low-Income Housing Tax Credits and a 223d mortgage for the total development. The rehab work began in late 2021 and was completed in the fall of 2022.
Some of the major innovative designs include green technology building attributes such as LED lighting, low U-factor thermal insulated windows, sweepable floors that are attractive and are repairable with a 30-year warranty to reduce waste, low or no formaldehyde cabinets, no volatile organic compounds paint, Energy Star-rated appliances including ice makers in the refrigerators and a microwave vent hood over the stove. A highly insulated state-of-the-art spray on the roof and high-efficiency exterior doors. HVAC includes bi-polar air cleaners, heat pumps and smart thermostats. The property sports a 66 kilovolt-amperes (kVA) photovoltaic system on the roof and a 250 kVA natural gas generator for resilience. The outdated hot water system was replaced with a gas-condensing boiler.
The apartments were modified to be adaptive, with restrictive walls and obstacles removed during renovations so that as the residents age, the apartments can adapt to their needs. A restrictive wall in the kitchen was removed, lending space for an attractive island. Other adaptable items include cabinets that can convert for under-counter wheelchair access when needed but provide additional cabinet space when that feature is not needed, lower upper cabinets, and other accessible features.
The green technology is just the beginning for this unique property. The eight-story building houses 150 elderly families with a Section 202/8 subsidy. Elevator lobbies on each floor were transformed into unique spaces. The first floor offers the business offices, a full-service beauty shop equipped with professional stylists, styling chairs and shampoo bowls, as well as manicure and pedicure services, and a large community area for activities and meals as well. A large lounge area where residents can sit and socialize is available near the entrance. The second floor is home to a theater room with state-of-the-art equipment, including a large-screen 5K television, Dolby Atmos surround sound, and DVD and streaming equipment. The residents can watch movies together daily while enjoying popcorn, snacks and drinks. The third floor has a computer center with three computers available for resident use. The fourth floor boasts a newly renovated fitness room equipped with state-of-the-art fitness equipment designed with the elderly in mind. The equipment is fully accessible for those in wheelchairs or with mobility issues. An exercise physiologist is on staff and works with residents to develop individually tailored fitness workouts for rehabilitation or just physical fitness. The fifth floor has a well-stocked library maintained by several residents. Books are traded between different Wesley Living properties so that a fresh batch of reading material is available. Additionally, the Golden Cross Resident’s Fund buys new books when requested. The sixth floor has a recreation room with hobby and pool tables, dart boards, and card and board game tables for resident’s leisure activities. The seventh floor has a full-service medical clinic with a nurse practitioner, a telemedicine room for specialist consults, and available mental health counseling to assist residents with their needs. The eighth floor has various vending machines with drinks, sandwiches and various snacks along with tables, microwaves and chairs so residents can eat and socialize. Each floor also has a laundry room with new energy-efficient front loading and accessible washers and dryers.
Other amenities include security cameras and access control, a pastor, on-site commodity distribution, community/activity/learning center, activities, organized clubs, propertywide Wi-Fi, apartment-controlled heat and air with smart thermostats, and property-supplied transportation. These amenities and social experiences support our residents’ goal of an active quality of life. In keeping with energy efficiency, the common spaces were also retrofitted with energy-efficient lighting, high-efficiency HVAC and insulated windows.
Meals on Wheels are also served at St Mary Manor. The community space is where residents can enjoy music, bingo and other entertainment. With an emphasis on overall health—for reduction of risk factors for dementia and cardiovascular disease and fall prevention, St Mary offers physical fitness, health education classes, and has an exercise physiologist to assist residents with fitness workouts, healthy eating. Life alternatives, line dancing, and a chair volleyball league is being developed. Residents participate in tournaments where they compete against other Wesley Living communities. Programs like this help to keep the residents happy and healthy, prevent social isolation and promote a healthy lifestyle.
St Mary has a waitlist preference for people experiencing homelessness and has taken in 29 homeless persons in the last two years. St Mary has a covenant relationship with Golden Cross Senior Ministry, which aids with homeless support, including furniture, household items, and food. They also provide financial support for social activities, food, medicine, and community holiday meals. As a result, St Mary can help meet the needs of its communities through outreach and partnerships not provided through the subsidies of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
St Mary serves its residents with a service coordinator who is a social worker. She helps residents deal with government entities in navigating extraordinarily complex systems. Along with a social worker, the interdisciplinary team of service coordinators includes a nurse and a mental health professional. The nurse can work with hospitals, doctors, and other healthcare organizations and advocate for the resident while dealing with these entities. She is also an incredible resource for residents with information about treatments, medications, etc.
When dealing with mental health issues, the mental health professional helps the resident obtain the services they need to treat their disorders and helps the staff understand the residents’ needs. This interdisciplinary team brings a level of support uncommon in affordable facilities nationwide and is critical in meeting the needs of all the residents of St Mary.
St Mary is also dedicated to encouraging residents in behaviors that provide for the highest quality of life with educational programming in smoking cessation—St Mary is a nonsmoking facility, nutrition, physical fitness, wellness, financial management and dementia and Alzheimer’s support.
St Mary also operates a fully accessible 18-passenger bus. Residents can use the transportation to go to stores, banks, farmer’s markets, pharmacies, and a range of social activities such as nature centers, parks, restaurants, zoos, and many other cultural and scientific museums and institutions.
St Mary also boasts a staff with a combined 74 years of affordable housing experience and are licensed or certified in social work, maintenance, fair housing, property management, tax credit, exercise physiology and national affordable housing professional.
Watch a video: https://youtu.be/gH3JRwlkOHc
Buena Esperanza is an adaptive reuse of a blighted commercial motel that’s now a revitalized Spanish-styled, two-story apartment community, providing permanent housing with on-site supportive services for the special needs of 69 veterans, individuals living with mental illness and people who were formerly homeless. The first motel conversion under the city’s first-of-its-kind motel conversion ordinance, Buena Esperanza became the prototype for California’s $2.75 billion Homekey Program—transforming motels/hotels to supportive housing, an example of providing necessary stability and support for the unique needs of residents that can end homelessness.
From the outset, the vision for Buena Esperanza was to do more than “get people off the street.” The design and construction team envisioned and engineered a community to ensure residents would have the best opportunities to succeed and thrive. The entire property allows residents to feel secure and have communal space to connect with neighbors in their shared stories.
Buena Esperanza’s motel conversion features an interior/exterior update of an existing two-story building plus a new construction one-story, 1,800-square-foot community center. The exterior facade features an updated Spanish-architectural design with stucco walls, arches, and decorative wrought iron accents. A large outdoor area with barbecues, a community garden, and inviting landscaping provide additional outdoor space for resident activities/gatherings.
Buena Esperanza maintains a 95% occupancy rate with residents who originally moved in upon the property opening. Based on a recent quality of life resident survey and resident/staff interviews, 100% of respondents reported being satisfied with their housing.
At the forefront of innovative affordable housing financing, Jamboree partnered with Providence—as part of its Community Benefit Fund—on a bridge loan. Noting Jamboree’s importance as a community health partner, Providence presented a competitive interest rate, nearly half the percentage rate of other offers, saving Jamboree hundreds of thousands of dollars on overall project costs. Jamboree repaid the Providence bridge loan on time and in full, thanks to established funding relationships with the county of Orange that allowed Jamboree to leverage County Mental Health Service Act dollars effectively.
At the time of funding, Buena Esperanza was Jamboree’s second project to receive funding from the revitalized Orange County Housing Trust (OCHT), a nonprofit run by NeighborWorks OC, that partners with the Orange County Business Council to make private, “last-mile” funding available for affordable and supportive housing development in Orange County. This funding resulted from a contribution to the OCHT by the Disneyland Resort—one of the first leadership-level commitments supporting gap financing for acquiring, developing, and constructing permanent supportive and affordable housing projects in Orange County. Other corporate partners of the OCHT include Wells Fargo, Union Bank, and Brookfield Properties. This collaboration is an inspiring example for other Orange County and California flagship businesses.
Key funding partners included the city of Anaheim, the Orange County Housing Trust, Disneyland Resort, Providence Southern California, the California Housing Finance Agency, the California Community Reinvestment Corporation, and U.S. Bank.
Nationwide, there’s a pressing awareness that many homeless in our communities have unique needs that housing alone cannot resolve. At the same time, many cities are managing vacant, often blighted motel properties. With a solution that brought the two together, Jamboree developed Buena Esperanza with the full support of city, county, and community leaders.
In 2019, the city of Anaheim and Jamboree wrote a new ordinance specifically so that this former Econo Lodge would become more Permanent Supportive Housing. Buena Esperanza was the first motel conversion under this first-of-its-kind motel conversion ordinance.
When the 2020 pandemic amplified the correlation between housing and health, motel conversions were recognized as a solution to quickly and safely house people experiencing homelessness along with supportive, wrap-around services they need to live healthy, productive lives.
Jamboree converted and opened Buena Esperanza during the COVID-19 pandemic—overcoming construction delays and supply chain cost increases—to safely move 69 vulnerable residents into fully furnished affordable apartment homes.
A new construction 1,800-square-foot community center provides a large community space with a resident lounge and a large community kitchen for connecting with neighbors and social gatherings. In addition, the existing two-story structure created space for a reception area, leasing office, computer lab, individual counseling rooms, small-group meeting space, and on-site offices for a collaboration of community partners that offer wrap-around services to ensure the 69 formerly homeless residents are connected to assistance, resources, and support.
Each 302-square-foot, fully furnished renovated studio and the one-bedroom 417-square-foot manager’s apartment feature updated cabinetry, a living/sleeping area, a full kitchenette including stovetop, microwave oven and refrigerator, and a full, private bath. A large outdoor area with barbecues, a community garden, and inviting landscaping provide additional outdoor space for resident activities and gatherings. Laundry facilities are on site.
Management’s biggest challenge is what’s expected of newly housed individuals in a Permanent Supportive Housing community. Many of these residents live with a mental health diagnosis, others are at risk of homelessness, and others come from a more extended history of homelessness. That’s why residents receive on-site counseling and support for daily living skills: budgeting, cooking, hygiene, grocery shopping, paying rent on time, and being a good neighbor/tenant.
Residents see that on-site property management and services staff are working together to deliver services, meeting regularly to ensure the changing needs of the residents are identified and addressed and creating an environment of clear and transparent communication.
Trainings are provided to the property management and services staff on supportive housing best practices. A shared commitment between The John Stewart Company—a long-time and trusted property management partner—and Jamboree’s on-site resident services staff ensures that the property is well maintained as a valuable community asset and that its residents thrive in a place they call home.
Integral to the success of Buena Esperanza is the inclusion of fully-funded, ongoing supportive services that enable residents to live in Permanent Supportive Housing with a stable environment. Residents coming from homelessness and living with a clinical mental health diagnosis from a health care provider qualify for Buena Esperanza through the Mental Health Services Act. They are referred by participating agencies, contingent on credit and background checks.
There is a live/work preference for Anaheim residents and workers referred by the Anaheim Housing Authority. Jamboree coordinates on-site services provided by Home First FSP, the Orange County Housing’s Full-Service Partnership (FSP) program, and the Orange County’s Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing team.
Delivered with a “whatever it takes” approach, on-site resident services include medication-management assistance, mental health counseling, and general life skills training—provided at no cost to residents. An on-site program coordinator assists residents in accessing local community services.
With many residents on fixed incomes, budgets can run short at month’s end. The community kitchen features a fully stocked community pantry that provides household/cleaning/personal hygiene essentials, such as toiletries, paper goods, laundry detergent, soap, etc., free of charge. In partnership with California’s Medically Tailored Meal Program, fresh produce is delivered weekly to residents.
The revitalization of Buena Esperanza improves the commercial/industrial corridor of La Palma Avenue, complementing a newer residential development across the street in Buena Park, and brought together private business sector leaders, including Disneyland Resort and Providence Southern California, to provide critical last-mile and bridge funding.
The land Buena Esperanza sits on once belonged to the sprawling 48,806-acre ranch of La Buena Esperanza, translated as “The Good Hope.” The historic property was used for ranching and growing crops for over a century. Although the property became a motel in the later 20th century, Jamboree hopes that the heritage of this property will be a source of “good hope” to its residents.
Jamboree’s strategic investment in affordable housing developments like Buena Esperanza is a platform for measurable community outcomes. Through comprehensive community assessment and in-depth neighborhood input/data analysis, Jamboree identifies services, programs, and community service amenities to include in design/development. By bringing together community organizations in health care, education, and economic development to work collaboratively, Buena Esperanza helped the city address pressing needs it identified as a priority. Jamboree’s community impact strategy ensures its housing/services are relevant, sustainable, and effective in addressing the real needs of residents and surrounding neighborhoods.
Assessment includes analysis of data focused on income/education levels, language proficiency, employment, neighborhood safety, and school performance. Jamboree interviews key stakeholders who know the community—city officials, school districts, law enforcement, property managers, community organizers, social service providers, and churches—who can help provide additional community insights. This process is vital in assessing a community’s unique strengths and challenges, so Jamboree’s work builds upon those strengths and helps to address challenges.
The Willows at East Greenville
Watch a video: https://youtu.be/yDRouBW9Z7M
The goal of The Willows at East Greenville was to convert a defunct historic factory located in the heart of East Greenville, Penn., into a mix of market-rate and affordable rentals to serve the community’s demand for more housing options.
The goal was met by offering various housing options—modern studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments with rents set at 20% of the area median income up to market rate. The developer wanted to showcase the building’s rich history throughout the community and provide various desirable options to fit a family’s household size and budget.
The goal was further met by being able to help the community meet its demand for affordable housing and restore a landmark to its former glory.
The Willows at East Greenville was funded by Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, Historic Tax Credits and Montgomery County HOME. The developers faced challenges with many supply chain/construction delays during COVID; even still, the community was able to be leased up in under five months and stayed within the budget.
The developer worked with East Greenville Borough and Montgomery County officials alongside partners at Genesis Housing to transform a deteriorated building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, into an appealing and affordable place to live. It was designed to offer residents 71 apartments with community amenities, including a fitness center, laundry facilities, lounge, indoor and outdoor seating areas, a playground, plenty of off-street parking, and on-site management and maintenance.
Under National Park Service guidelines, The Willows boasts exposed beams, trusses and brick walls, over 500 new windows specially designed to fit into the existing openings and meet restoration criteria, and refurbished fire doors. The aesthetics differentiate the property, and the variety of floorplan types and layouts appeal to many different households and lifestyles. The community has also been designed to meet Energy Star applicable certification requirements. The building envelope and systems were upgraded to provide residents with highly efficient units and low operating costs. The PHFA Green Building Criteria has been incorporated into the design, featuring Energy Star appliances, light fixtures, fans and mechanical equipment, low-flow plumbing fixtures, green-label carpeting, low volatile organic compounds paints, and drought-tolerant indigenous landscaping. The units include a high-efficiency geothermal heating and cooling system with sealed and insulated ductwork.
While the construction team faced COVID-related delays, management kept leasing at full speed, offering social-distanced tours and appointments, operating six days a week and working with area community centers and housing agencies to help promptly place people in need of housing as units became available.
The developer had to modify some carriage-style doors, refit showers, expand outdoor seating, and adjust trash collection to ensure the highest service standards were delivered to the residents.
Some innovative programs/services provided to residents include developing 11 HOME units, one Your Way Home homeless unit through Montgomery County, and four Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Fund units. Plus, several rentals were adapted to meet reasonable accommodations upon request.
East Greenville and neighboring towns have an evident shortage of rental housing options. Over recent years, this area has shifted from a more rural countryside to a suburban mecca. The area offers little in the way of high-quality affordable housing. This allowed the developer to capitalize on the desirability of a growing town and its proximity to parks, schools and major markets such as Allentown.
As a restored factory, The Willows offers prospective residents an opportunity to live in a historic landmark filled with unique character and charm. Recognizing a need for attainable housing, the borough and developers worked together to change the zoning to allow the residential use for this project, which provides much-needed housing for dozens of Montgomery County families and contributes to the vibrancy of East Greenville Borough.