Douglas Greene in Kodak, Tenn., is a new 80-unit affordable community for residents who earn up to 60% of the area median income.
Douglas Greene in Kodak, Tenn., is a new 80-unit affordable community for residents who earn up to 60% of the area median income.

Woda Cooper Cos. has opened an 80-unit affordable housing community in Tennessee’s Sevier County, an area that was devastated in 2016 after deadly wildfires destroyed thousands of structures and now is taking a hit as the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the tourism industry surrounding the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

After the wildfires, the Tennessee Housing Development Agency (THDA) prioritized the use of low-income housing tax credits (LIHTCs) to help meet the need for affordable housing in the area. Douglas Greene is the first completed affordable housing development that received the prioritized allocation of housing tax credits. It includes 16 two-bedroom and 64 three-bedroom apartments for households earning up to 50% or 60% of the area median income.

“The availability of affordable housing like Douglas Greene is more important than ever in Sevier County considering the loss of housing due to the 2016 wildfires and recent impacts due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said THDA executive director Ralph Perrey. “Many residents work in the tourism industry, and the pandemic has impacted a large number of job at attractions, restaurants, entertainment venues, and other tourism-related businesses.”

In addition to the allocation of LIHTCs from THDA, RBC Community Investments provided the tax credit equity. The $14.2 million development also received a U.S. Department of Agriculture Section 538 permanent loan backed by Bellwether Enterprise and a construction loan from Huntington National Bank. Additional partners include architect Bernard L. Weinstein & Associates and Woda Construction as the general contractor.

Featuring a modern and open concept design, the apartments include high-quality finishes and fully equipped kitchens with Energy Star appliances. Five units are designed for those with disabilities. In addition, a standalone community center includes a community room with a kitchenette, a computer center, a fitness center, a management office, and an adjoining outdoor playground.

Final lease-up for the community, which became fully occupied at the end of April, took place during the COVID-19 crisis. In place of live visits or open houses, the property management staff utilized video tours to show apartments to prospective residents.

“Our management staff has done a remarkable job expediting lease-up and assisting residents upon move-in while also adhering to our company’s stringent COVID-19 safety policies,” said Thomas Simons, senior vice president of development at Woda Cooper Cos.

Philip LaBelle, senior vice president of management, added that many routine practices during leasing have been a challenge across the company’s communities since the start of stay-at-home orders. “Our community managers have tried a variety of out-of-the-box ideas for virtual tours while maintaining social distancing,” he said. “In addition, our marketing team has relied more on social media advertising such as Facebook and Facebook Marketplace to showcase new properties and openings.”