In Houston’s historic Near Northside neighborhood, local developer Avenue Community Development Corp. (CDC) is creating a vibrant new subdivision with a mix of traditional and contemporary for-sale housing at affordable price points.
The Avenue Place subdivision, which will include 95 green homes once completed next year, is bringing new life to a 20-acre site that previously housed the FedEx Freight Terminal.
The new development was conceived as part of a community planning process convened by neighborhood residents in 2002. The plan called for some of the neighborhood’s commercial or industrial sites, like the FedEx property, to be redeveloped as residential or resident-friendly resources. In 2008, Avenue CDC purchased the site from FedEx, which already had been in the process of relocating its operations.
“It’s a neighborhood that’s having a renaissance, minutes from downtown and a short walk to the new light-rail line,” says Avenue CDC executive director Mary Lawler.
The homes, which are approximately 1,400 to 2,000 square feet with 10 different floor plans, sell for between $161,000 and $254,000.
Half of the homes are reserved for households earning at or below 120% of the area median (AMI). Ten percent of the homes are set aside for households at or below 80% of the AMI, although Lawler says almost 20% of the homes have been purchased by residents in that income bracket. The remaining homes are market rate.
Avenue CDC offers subsidies for many of the home buyers. The developer provides a forgivable $26,000 subordinate loan for buyers at or under 120% AMI. For buyers at or below 80% AMI, it provides an $86,000 subordinate loan, with $26,000 forgivable and the remaining portion due upon resale or in 30 years, whichever comes first.
Households must participate in Avenue CDC’s homebuyer education program, which includes an eight-hour class that covers the various aspects and responsibilities of purchasing a home, from how to obtain a mortgage to handling property taxes and insurance once they become homeowners.
Avenue CDC is about at the halfway point on construction, with 49 homes now complete. “Very shortly we will break ground on another 15 homes,” says Lawler. “The response has been terrific. We really can’t build them fast enough. We have a lot of people waiting on the next phase.”
Financing for the $22 million single-family subdivision has varied by phases. Avenue CDC received funds from the city of Houston for the land and a loan from the Houston Housing Finance Corp. for the land and infrastructure costs. Construction financing sources include loans from Wells Fargo Community Development Corp. and Capital One Bank Community Development Corp., as well as capital grants from NeighborWorks America.
In addition to the single-family housing, Avenue CDC developed the 144-unit Avenue Terrace, which was financed with 9% low-income housing tax credits (LIHTCs), on the site in 2011. The developer closed on the financing last week for a second multifamily phase of 48 units, also utilizing 9% LIHTCs.
The developer also completed a one-acre park and a walking trail on the site this year. “That is a great amenity for the neighborhood,” adds Lawler.