PHOENIX — For nearly 50 years, a small parcel near the edge of downtown has been the site of affordable housing.

Developer Leon McCarty originally built a small apartment complex there for low-income families in 1963. The city then acquired the 24-unit property in 1977 and continued to provide seniors housing.

The Phoenix Housing Department recently added a new chapter to the story by redeveloping the property while maintaining its long history as affordable housing. The department's nonprofit affiliate, Phoenix Municipal Housing Corp., replaced the old complex with a modern, 69-unit development for low-income seniors.

McCarty on Monroe is the first citydeveloped low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) development. The housing department has provided financing for LIHTC deals sponsored by other developers, but this is the first that it has developed on its own with tax credits.

The original apartments were in need of rehab and the city owned an adjacent vacant property, so it made sense to do a redevelopment project, says Kim Dorney, director of the city of Phoenix Housing Department, which also serves as the local public housing authority.

The result is a new, $17 million development that nearly triples the number of affordable homes that used to exist on the site. All the apartments are affordable, with 34 set aside as public housing.

Housing authorities are working to diversify their portfolios as well as the resources available to them, and LIHTCs are one of the ways that allow them to expand, says Dorney.

Award-winning project

Designed by Orcutt/Winslow, the apartments are clustered around a central courtyard. The housing is on the second, third, and fourth levels, with the corridors opening to the courtyard. The design provides natural light and views of the community while promoting social interaction.

The ground floor houses communal space and the property's administrative offices, which are surrounded by pedestrian paths.

“It's a beautiful building that sets the standard for what affordable housing can achieve,” says Dorney. “Great design has to be part of affordable housing.”

The Arizona Department of Housing (ADOH) recently awarded McCarty on Monroe its Brian Mickelsen Housing Hero Award for an Exemplary Multifamily Project.

The project is an example of a new breed of urban transit-oriented development in Phoenix, according to ADOH director Michael Trailor. “The building design and security create a safe environment for residents, and, best of all, it is within walking distance of light rail,” he says. “The project illustrates a prime example of the great work that can be accomplished through the use of LIHTCs and creative community partnerships.”

The development was also built with a number of green features, including solar panels to help generate its own power.

The solar panels were initially cut from the project's budget, but officials were able to add them back when additional federal funds became available, according to Dorney. The city's Neighborhood Services Department made a loan of about $400,000 through Community Development Block Grants to install the solar features.

About $8 million came from LIHTCs allocated by ADOH and syndicated by the National Equity Fund, Inc.

The project also used funds from a 2006 voter-approved bond measure and the sale of some scattered-site properties that had been made over the years. Citi provided a construction loan.

With McCarty on Monroe completed, Phoenix officials are turning their sights to developing the city's next LIHTC project. They say funding is in place for a development with 60 public housing units and dedicated amenities for seniors and persons with disabilities.