Lee Walker Heights wins $12 million tax credit financing

Press release from Mountain Housing Opportunities:

The North Carolina Housing Finance Agency (NCHFA) awarded federal housing tax credits on Friday, January 26, 2018 for the new apartment complex at Lee Walker Heights, planned by the Asheville Housing Authority and Mountain Housing Opportunities (MHO).

These tax credits will generate over $12 million in private investment for the construction of 212 affordable, energy-efficient, transit oriented apartments located in Asheville’s downtown, near the corner of Short Coxe Avenue and Biltmore Avenue.  The development budget for the project is estimated at $36.5 million.

Asheville Housing CEO Gene Bell said, “This award is the result of a community-wide effort, including Asheville Housing residents and staff, MHO staff, and significant financial support from the City and the County. Many thanks to everyone.”

Lee Walker Heights was built in 1950 as the first public housing community in Asheville with 96 apartments. These existing apartments will be demolished and a new apartment community and neighborhood will be built. The vision, developed in consultation with current residents, is to replace Asheville’s oldest public housing community with a transformational new mixed-income community, including one-for-one replacement of the 96 deeply subsidized units, which will be mixed with 116 additional new units, a total of 212 new affordable units.

Lee Walker Heights is surrounded by areas undergoing major transformation, including an expansion at Mission Hospitals and new businesses and market-rate homes in the South Slope neighborhood. Lee Walker Heights is currently isolated from these improvements due to steep slopes and only one street connection. As the new community is developed, a new street will be built to connect the new  development directly to Biltmore Avenue, allowing residents improved access to public transportation, businesses and jobs.

Building on the strong community of residents and the site’s prominent location along a major transit corridor, the new development will offer a complete transformation to a sustainable, walkable neighborhood.

The plan for redevelopment of Lee Walker Heights was designed in collaboration with current residents including children. Beginning in early 2015, Mountain Housing Opportunities and the Housing Authority began a community outreach process to solicit ideas and desires from current residents. Through regular meetings with a Resident Advisory Committee as well as community-wide workshops, building tours, and surveys, the development team identified goals, values, and priorities for the new development.

Crystal Reid, who chairs the Resident Advisory Committee, commented on the multi-year planning and development process, “Patience is a virtue, and in time change will come. I hope to continue this journey with the Housing Authority to help create better affordable housing conditions in the future.”

Current residents at Lee Walker Heights will be eligible for relocation benefits and will be assisted by the Housing Authority and Mountain Housing Opportunities as residents move to new homes. All current residents of Lee Walker Heights will have the right to return when the new apartments are complete.

Local funds already approved by the City of Asheville and Buncombe County total $8.4 million, with each local government having committed $4.2 million.

When completed, the new development will provide safe, affordable, energy-efficient homes for 212 families and individuals.  The Housing Authority and MHO estimate that 100-150 children will have new homes, incorporating sustainable and green components including high-efficiency heating systems and lighting fixtures, low flow plumbing fixtures and Energy Star appliances.

It is anticipated that the project will employ over 500 workers during the 18-24 month construction period, which is expected to begin in 2019.

The Asheville Housing Authority operates eleven affordable housing properties and several smaller properties in Asheville with a total of 1,935 affordable apartments. The Housing Authority also administers the Housing Choice Voucher Program which subsidizes housing costs for low-income people in Asheville and Buncombe County. Housing Authority programs help more than 6,000 low-income people to access affordable housing.

Mountain Housing Opportunities is a local private charitable corporation which was started by volunteers in 1988.  The mission of MHO is to build and improve homes, neighborhoods, communities and lives, and to build hope and dignity in the people they serve.

This year MHO will serve over 1,600 residents of Asheville and Buncombe County through its programs of Emergency Home Repair, Homeownership Development and Lending, and Community Rental Investments. MHO is a member of NeighborWorks America, a national network of more than 240 groups providing resources, technical support and training for excellence in housing, community development and services.

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