Awards for Excellence in Housing Design

Aim for Ownership
Schenectady, New York

Median Home Price in MSA: $85,000
Project Home Prices: $57,400-$60,900

Aim for Ownership is a scattered site project consisting of ten new detached single family homes sold to first-time low-income families.

The Schenectady Public Housing Authority purchased vacant land with HUD assistance. The PHA subcontracted with a private architect to design the homes, and construction contracts were then awarded through the public bid process.

The PHA selected a "Homeownership Coordinator" who marketed the homes and pre-screened potential purchasers. All eligible families, with incomes between 35 percent and 80 percent of the area median income were referred to a not-for-profit agency for pre-purchase counseling. Those selected obtained financing from one of several local banks, which arranged for low downpayments and other special criteria through the Community Reinvestment Act. Additionally, the City offered downpayment and closing cost assistance.

This conversion of vacant lots to new affordable housing provided jobs to local contractors, fulfilled a critical housing need and added to the City's tax base. Areas that were once blighted, unsafe, and deteriorating are now safe, secure, and marketable as a direct result of this collaborative and innovative housing effort.

Vail Commons
Vail, Colorado

Median Home Price in MSA: $2,400,485
Project Home Prices: $107,500-$163,500

Housing costs in Vail are extraordinarily high and seventy-five percent of the housing inventory consists of second homes. Consequently, housing for local residents is difficult to obtain.

The Town of Vail was the owner of a parcel of land that had been identified as having potential for affordable housing and commercial development. After soliciting proposals, a joint venture was created to develop the site.

The project consists of a 70,000 square-foot underground supermarket with employee rental units, 53 deed-restricted homes, and an additional 13,000 square-feet of retail space on top. The Town of Vail extended a 50-year commercial lease and a 99-year residential lease instead of selling the land. This added to the affordability of the project. Additionally, the State granted $300,000 to the project.

The Town of Vail offered the homes by lottery. All 53 were sold in one hour. Purchasers are primarily first-time homebuyers. The homes are permanently deed-restricted and are subject to three percent appreciation per year. The Town will handle all resales by lottery.

Old Town Square
Oakland, California

Median Home Price in MSA: $255,500
Project Home Prices: $100,750-$189,900

Prior to the development of Old Town Square, a 99-unit condominium development, there was a sense that people wanted to live downtown, but, given the absence of housing and retail amenities, it was difficult to attract middle-income families.

In order to overcome this obstacle, the developer used "reservations" in which lenders issued conditional commitments before construction began, providing assurance that mortgage financing would be available to potential purchasers. Old Town Square also offered a lease-to-own financing option, which allowed potential buyers to lease, then purchase, their homes without a traditional downpayment.

The Oakland Redevelopment Agency collaborated with many entities to complete this project. Old Oakland Housing Development Corporation, Wells Fargo Bank, and World Savings Bank helped finance the project. Fannie Mae modified underwriting criteria with respect to condominiums and agreed to accept the lease-to-own contracts. And, Bank of America provided loans with zero downpayment for most of the purchasers.

Old Town Square has successfully contributed to downtown Oakland's revitalization by increasing the tax base, acting as a catalyst for further development, and by bringing stability through homeownership.

Waverly Homes
Roxbury, Massachusetts

Median Home Price in MSA: $166,000
Project Home Price: $100,000

In 1996, a planning process was undertaken through the collaboration of the City of Boston and a task force comprised of neighborhood residents, business owners and local agencies. Waverly Homes, a nine-home scattered site project was ultimately a product of that planning process.

Waverly Homes is the first new construction homeownership project in this section of the city, which is within an Empowerment Zone and in Boston's poorest neighborhood. Many of the materials were donated by private businesses, and construction loans were obtained at below-market rates through the Federal Home Loan Bank.

With the assistance of the architectural staff of the Paralyzed Veterans of America, the developer was able to equip one of the homes with the best possible equipment for a wheelchair-bound resident, including a roll-in shower unit and an elevator. The home was ultimately sold to a wheelchair-bound individual as a completely accessible home.

Queen City Partnership
Dallas, Texas

Median Home Price in MSA: $129,000
Project Home Price: $63,000

The Community Development Partnership is an alliance between the federal and local government, banks, businesses, foundations, and associations to obtain contracts, grants, community investment funds, and flexible lines of credit that will expand housing for low- to moderate-income families in the South Dallas/Fair Park community.

Each year, the partnership has surpassed itself. In 1995-96, 25 homes were fully rehabilitated. In 1997-98, the partnership constructed 20 new homes, repaired 48 homes for low-income and elderly residents, acquired 43 lots for future construction, and counseled 175 potential homeowners.

The partnership continues to strive to create and maintain harmonious and stable neighborhoods.

State Street Revitalization
St. Paul, Minnesota

Median Home Price in MSA: $132,000
Project Home Price: $94,000-$102,000

In 1996, Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity was approached by the Neighborhood Development Alliance (NeDA) to collaborate in the redevelopment of a vacant, six-unit, 110-year old building in St. Paul.

Since Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity relies on the sweat equity of the future occupants of the homes it develops, it was necessary to select families as future owners prior to the onset of construction. This presented a particular challenge because the condition of the building was so deteriorated that prospective buyers had considerable difficulty imagining what the completed restoration would look like.

After overcoming all the challenges presented, the building is now a beautifully restored six-unit building on a prominent thoroughfare in an ethnically diverse community of St. Paul. Furthermore, these homes provide very affordable, owner-occupied housing to six low-income households at a time when finding affordable housing of any kind is extremely difficult.

Lawrence/Grand Street Project
Hartford, Connecticut

Median Home Price in MSA: $126,000
Project Home Price: $110,000

During the initial design phase of the Lawrence/Grand Street Project, a reduction of density in the neighborhood was envisioned. In 1994, there were 203 units of housing. By 1998, 99 units had been demolished due to fires and severe structural damage. In their place, a playground for the elementary school as well as five new duplex homes were developed.

The model for this project is a Best Practice under President Clinton's Partnership for Advancing Technologies in Housing (PATH Program) as well as being cited as a HUD Case Study under the Marketable Durable Affordable Entry Level Homes (MADE Manual), released in April of 1999.

Because of the mechanical and construction methods in this Energy Star/Energy Crafted Home, residents with asthma and other chronic breathing problems will experience a safer indoor environment.

This project was possible because of broad community involvement. From HART (neighborhood-based community organization), to the Urban League of Greater Hartford, and the Governor's office, many people worked hard over the course of five years to make this project a reality.

Viola Street Revitalization
Greenville, South Carolina

Median Home Price in MSA: $108,000
Project Home Price: $80,000

The Viola community was once one of Greenville's finest African American communities. Dating from the late 1800's the Viola neighborhood was home to influential minority business owners and community leaders. By the 1960's it had become a rental community infested with crime, drug activity and poverty.

In 1994, a private development company was enlisted to provide advisory services for the Viola neighborhood. The company quickly recognized the neighborhood's potential.

Being careful to respect the residents, a replacement plan was introduced that provided steady improvements and avoided displacement. As a house was completed, an existing resident was moved into the house. The vacant house was demolished to allow road construction or additional home construction.

All new homes were required to meet particular architectural standards. These guidelines are intended to recapture the original housing stock and design. Previous renters were placed in a homeownership program that provided first and second mortgages with a forgivable third mortgage.

At project conclusion, 138 substandard houses will have been replaced with 90 new owner-occupied homes.

Vermont Village Plaza
South Central Los Angeles, California

Median Home Price in MSA: $179,000
Project Home Price: $106,900

Vermont Village Plaza is the result of a 1994 design-build competition sponsored by First Interstate Bank. The competition teamed architects with local developers and builders and asked them to create a mixed-use development proposal that would act as a catalyst for further economic development in the area.

The premise of Vermont Village Plaza is that affordable homeownership is a key to neighborhood revitalization. The project includes 36 owner-occupied homes built over stores. The Los Angeles Housing Department provided financing options for qualified homebuyers including payment assistance, mortgage credit certificates, and mortgage revenue bonds for first-time homebuyers. Perhaps most importantly, the project balances the needs of homeowners while accommodating cars and pedestrians.

Vermont Village Plaza establishes a new and effective public/private partnership, which will help Vermont Avenue to once again become a thriving commercial corridor.

Content Archived: December 13, 2009