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Setting the table: national real estate trends, local numbers, and the role of community

Q & A with Andrea Davis

By: Alison Berry

Date: Aug, 27 2013

Last week we hosted a webinar featuring Andrea Davis, who discussed all the great work that her organization, Homeword, is doing to provide sustainable, affordable, transit-oriented housing that people are proud to live in. Their projects are so much more than affordable housing, they incorporate sustainable and locally-sourced building materials, local art, spaces for local agriculture, and more. WoonerfKid houseGold Dust from Street photos by Homeword If you missed the webinar, you can watch it here. The audience raised a bunch of interesting questions & we didn’t have time to get to them all--here are Andrea’s answers to the questions we missed: Q: Where do you have projects currently under construction? A: Currently, Homeword is partnering with Soroptimist Village to preserve and rehabilitate a 55-unit affordable senior complex in Great Falls.  In addition, we are partnering with the Housing Authority of Billings to construct 16 units of new affordable housing with construction slated to begin in fall 2013. And we are partnering with the for-profit, GMD Development, to preserve and rehabilitate Hillview Apartments in Havre, a 52 unit family project also slated to begin construction in fall 2013. Q: Who is the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified wood provider that you have worked with in Missoula? A: In some cases, we have worked with small local companies who haven't obtained certification, but follow sustainable practices of harvesting and chain of custody processes.  For example, on Orchard Gardens, we worked with Bad Goat Forest Products. On other projects, we have worked with certified suppliers, such as BMC. And, we have also worked with Boise Cascade who supplies FSC-certified products to Boyce Lumber, where most of the certified wood for the Solstice project was purchased. Q: What are the occupancy rates of your projects? A: Every project varies in occupancy rate.  Generally we have about a 97% occupancy or 3% vacancy. Each project has its own waiting list, which varies in length. We encourage interested applicants to list their names as soon as possible, given certain unit sizes at certain properties can open up immediately.  We have several small projects so one vacant unit can create a vacancy “rate” that seems disproportionate when comparing to national standards. For example, our Lenox Flats property only has 10 residential units.  One vacant unit = 10% vacancy rate. Q: What are your funding sources? A: Homeword is fortunate to have an earned income revenue model, where approximately 70% of our revenue is earned through developer fees, asset management fees, and program fee for service. The remaining 30% of Homeword’s revenue is generated through corporate sponsorships, private grants and individual donors. The funding sources for our affordable housing developments are specific per development. Generally we utilize the IRS Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program, which has proven to be the most successful affordable housing program in the U.S., in terms of unit production.  The LIHTC program generates private investor equity to off-set the cost of construction. We combine that equity with public grants (i.e. CDBG or HOME grants), private grants, and permanent mortgage debt. Depending on project type and location, we leverage public support with private equity. For example, in Missoula, we work with the local redevelopment agency to utilize local public dollars generated through the tax base via Tax Increment Financing, which can pay for public infrastructure like water, sewer, and street lights. Still have questions? Leave them in the comments section & we’ll get you answers!

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