Abbey Church Village, a 160-unit affordable housing community in Columbus, Ohio, has been given a fresh start.
National Church Residences recently celebrated the completion of $8 million in renovations at the development, which dates back to 1996. In addition to undergoing numerous upgrades, the property has a new 5,000-square-foot community building.
The improvements go beyond the physical changes at the campus. The resident families are benefitting from the Strong Families Fund (SFF), an initiative that uses affordable housing as a platform to ensure access to social services.
Abbey Church Village is among a small group of properties taking part in the 10-year program that’s backed by a number of industry heavy-hitters, including The Kresge Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, CSH (Corporation for Supportive Housing), Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future, The Community Development Trust, Goldman Sachs, and National Affordable Housing Trust (NAHT).
“At National Church Residences, we focus on leveraging the value of our quality housing in conjunction with resident service coordination for improved health outcomes,” says Michelle Norris, executive vice president of external affairs and strategic initiatives. “So many organizations are heroes in the Strong Families Fund, and we are proud to be part of it.”
SFF provides long-term funding for a full-time on-site service coordinator dedicated to working with resident families to link them with local resources, ESL programs, and after-school tutoring. This gives the residents opportunities to improve their lives, increase the success of their children in school, and live independently.
Abbey Church Village’s renovations were funded by federal low-income housing tax credits (LIHTCs) administered by the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, with equity coming from syndicator NAHT and investor Goldman Sachs. The project also used a construction loan from Huntington National Bank, a loan from the city of Columbus, and other financing. Berardi + Partners Inc. is the architect.
How SFF works
The Ohio development is one of the earliest projects in the SFF initiative. Program leaders recently closed deals on several other projects, bringing the final number of participants to six developments with nearly 900 units, says Jane Bilger, senior program manager at CSH.
“Our goal is to demonstrate and document the impact of resident-service coordination on both residents and properties,” she says.
The participating communities include preservation, substantial-rehab, and new construction projects. All are owned by high-capacity nonprofit organizations. The other SFF developments include:
· Strong Housing Family Development in Ypsilanti, Mich., 112 units of former public housing converted to LIHTC apartments by the Ypsilanti Housing Commission;
· Hillside/Parkside View in Schenectady, N.Y., 98 scattered-site rehab and new construction units owned by The Community Builders;
· Village at Washington Terrace in Raleigh, N.C., a 162-unit new construction development by DHIC, Inc.;
· Woodlawn Rollup in Chicago, 196 units being preserved by Preservation of Affordable Housing; and
· Holly Park East & West in Commerce City, Colo., 168 units in a substantial-rehab development owned by Mercy Housing.
The developments were able to receive financing for construction and physical improvements. Syndicators Cinnaire and NAHT are providing LIHTC equity from investors KeyBank and Goldman Sachs.
However, the most unique benefit for the properties is that they will have up to $90,000 a year to cover the costs of resident-service coordination and programs. Access to the funding is contingent on the properties meeting certain benchmarks on resident engagement and performance.
The pay-for-performance model will focus on several areas: work, income, and assets; children, youth, and education; housing stability; community engagement and stability; and health and wellness.
SFF seeks to learn more about the valuable role that resident service coordination can play in helping residents to maintain housing stability. The findings may also help to build the case for sustainable funding for resident service coordination from investors and other partners.
The earliest projects are just beginning to collect initial information that will be the baseline data to compare year-over-year results, Bilger says.
While many owners provide resident services at their affordable housing communities, it’s often a struggle to sustain funding for service coordination.
SFF supporters hope they will be able to stimulate new strategies and models to support the delivery of resident service coordination.