Challenges abound in the affordable housing industry—finding land, NIMBYism, higher construction costs, and lower equity pricing, just to name a few.

This year’s group of finalists for AFFORDABLE HOUSING FINANCE’s fourth annual Readers’ Choice Awards overcame their share of obstacles—from the usual NIMBY and finance struggles to two lawsuits before a state Superior Court to the discovery of mold behind wallpaper and a crashed concrete-delivery barge in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

We received approximately 135 entries this year, and it wasn’t an easy task to pick the 32 finalists because so many of the nominated developments were well-deserving.

These Readers’ Choice finalists target diverse populations, including families, farmworkers, formerly homeless individuals, and seniors. Pear Tree Place in Yakima, Wash., provides drug- and alcohol-free living for recently sober individuals and their families. Evans House in Seattle serves people who have just been released from state psychiatric hospitals. Dudley Village in Dorchester, Mass., has units set aside for ex-offenders returning to the neighborhood from prison. And Hartford Grandfamily Housing Development in Hartford, Conn., provides housing for grandparents raising their grandchildren.

The developments showcase innovative solutions for creating affordable housing. Fair Oaks Court in Pasadena, Calif., is the first for-sale housing development to tap New Markets Tax Credits for project funding. Three cities contributed to the funding for Gosnold Apartments, a singleroom occupancy development in Norfolk, Va. The units at Broadway Crossing in Seattle sit atop a Walgreens.

This year, AFFORDABLE HOUSING FINANCE added a green category because of the trends we saw in the industry in 2007. The three finalists in this category are green to the core, but more than half of the other finalists also feature notable green elements.

The stories on the following pages show innovative financing and design, perseverance, and a lot of hard work by dedicated people. I hope these inspiring finalists will give you new ideas and solutions for your future developments.

The finalists were selected by the editors of AFFORDABLE HOUSING FINANCE, with assistance from several industry developers and experts. The developments were selected based on our assessment of several key characteristics, including:

• Impact on the community by adding to the affordable housing stock or improving the immediate social or economic fabric;
• Role in overall community revitalization or social change;
• Setting a new standard or pioneering a new method (tapping new funding sources; demonstrating new efficiency in capital costs and/or maintenance/operating costs, etc.); and
• Employing cost-effective or innovative design and/or construction, including energy efficiency and sustainable development.

To be eligible, developments had to have been completed after Jan. 1, 2007, or scheduled for completion this year. Multiphase projects with a phase being completed during this period were also eligible.

We had the tough job of picking the finalists, but you—the readers—get to decide the winners. Read about the developments throughout this issue, and then vote for a winner in each of the 10 categories as well as one overall winner at www.housingfinance. com. The winning developments will be showcased in the November issue and will be honored at a luncheon at the conclusion of AHF Live: The 2008 Tax Credit Developers’ Summit on Nov. 7 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.