I spent the month of May judging the more than 140 entries for AFFORDABLE HOUSING FINANCE's Readers' Choice Awards, even reading the nominations late at night and on the weekends not able to put them down.
They were all inspiring to me, and within the words and photos, I was able to understand how much hard work and perseverance went into creating these affordable housing developments during the nation's greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression.
Whittling the entries down to 33 finalists was a hard task for the magazine's editors because the developments were all so deserving and had such great stories to tell about the obstacles, the need for safe affordable housing, the revitalization of neighborhoods, the teamwork, and the residents.
But I think we did a good job on our final picks of the finalists.
We have three Gulf Coast projects this year. The images on CNN post- Katrina are still vivid in my mind, so it's great to see these fresh developments coming online.
Emerald Pines in Gulfport, Miss., was in severe disrepair the months after Katrina, yet residents stayed without utilities because they weren't sure where else to go. Now, the rebuilt Sec. 8 development is focusing on a sense of community.
The Terraces on Tulane in New Orleans replaces Forest Towers East, which closed after suffering heavy damage. Many of the former Forest Towers residents have reunited after recently moving into the new seniors community. And the mixed-income Crescent Club in New Orleans was cobbled together with layers of financing.
Two of the preservation finalists—Ashland Village in Alameda County, Calif., and MonteVerde Apartments in Baltimore—faced and overcame some big obstacles. Ashland Village's original lender went out of business, and a problem with the tax credit 10-year rule that postponed the acquisition had to be solved by an act of Congress. And Freddie Mac and Merrill Lynch were involved in the financing of MonteVerde, which was set to close Sept. 12, 2008, in the midst of the financial meltdown. Even though Freddie was placed under conservatorship and Merrill Lynch was purchased by Bank of America, the closing happened less than a week later.
You can read more about these developments and the other finalists starting on page 18. I hope you are inspired by their stories as much as I was.
The editors may have had the tough job of choosing the finalists, but it's up to you—the readers—to vote on your favorite in each category as well as the best overall project of the bunch. Go to www.housingfinance.com by Aug. 13 to vote.
The winning developments will be featured in the November/December issue and will be celebrated at a luncheon concluding AHF Live: The 2010 Affordable Housing Developers' Summit on Nov. 5 at the Fairmont Millennium Park in Chicago.