While the nation's private rental housing market has been in the doldrums for several years as the result of high financing rates and lack of developer confidence in a worthwhile return, the Washington-based National Housing Partnership has been quietly stimulating the creation of new rental housing for the elderly and low-monderate income persons and families.
Created as a privately owned and operated entity under the Housing Act of 1968 and funded by hundreds of stockholders and limited partners ranging from the AFL-CIO to Xerox Corp-the NHP has been providing private capital to stimulate rental housing through the attraction of tax incentives to investors and needed capital to builders. Most the the tenants occupying the rental dwellings qualify for HUD Section 8 rent supplement payments.
While the NHP program is nationwide, embracing 229 housing projects in 36 states and a total of more than 35,000 dwellings, the numbers are not all that impressive over more than six years of activity. But Partnership has made a major showing in subsidized rental housing in this area.
One of NHP's earliest and largest projects to house the elderly and low-incomers is Rock Creek Terrace, a 526-unit complex including a high-rise and garden units on a previously undeveloped site at 12630 Viers Mill Rd., between Wheaton and Rockville. It has consistently been fully occupied and operating successfully, according to a spokesperson for Shannon & Luchs, the management firm.
The NHP involvement in this area has been possibly even more dramatic at two recent projects. Old Town West in Alexandria in an urban renewal area where new dwellings have replaced old, and at Fairmont I and II, where 218 rental dwellings have been rehabilitated and rented in the area (14th and U NW) hard-hit by civil disturbances in 1968.
Meanwhile, NHP is active in a new Section 8 rental housing project, Strawbridge Square at Duke Street and Shirley Highway in Alexandria, with the Wesley Housing Development Corp, (a federation of 99 Methodist churches in Northern Virginia) in the creation of 128 subsidized rental housing units and also in a HUD demonstration grant program to test cost-saving of solar heating in 12 of the units being built by the Thomas Harkins firm of Silver Spring. Occupancy is scheduled early in 1978. The architect is the Environmental Design Group of Reston and federally subsidized "tandem" mortgage financing is being used.
Additionally, Kenneth H. Becker, senior project director for NHP in this area, said that the cleared site of the former Dunbar Hotel at 15th and UNW is projected for a 171-unit Section 8 rental subsidy housing moderate-rise building that is expected to be built by Forest City-Dillon of Cleveland. That firm, which built the high-rise for the elderly at Fort Lincoln last year, specializes in quasi-prefabricated high-rise construction using precast concrete exterior panels and pre-built bath and kitchen units. As a result, construction time is considerably shorter than with conventional construction.Fulton & Campbell of D.C. is the architect. Becker said that the target is to begin construction late this year.
However, in terms of viewable, dramatic change, the Old Town West redevelopment in an urban renewal area of Alexandria offers an example of upgraded housing for poor residents in the area bounded by Duke Street on the north, Columbus on the east, Gibbon on the south and Fayette to the west. Already there are tenants (most of them rent subsidized) in 172 units in a mid-rise and garden apartments. And seven townhouses have been sold.
Beverly Holland, resident manager for Shannon & Luchs, said that most of the Old Town West residents are area natives, some young and some old. "Some of the younger people have chosen to return to this area where they grew up because of the quality of the housing that was upgraded architecturally to fit into the historic Alexandria pattern," she said.
Contributions of time and money were made by the Alexandria city government and its Board of Architectural Review. McDonald & Williams of D.C. was the architect for the federally styled brick-facaded project and the Harkins firm is the builder. A second phase is currently under way in what has been known as the Dip Urban Renewal Area. Altogether, 407 dwellings are planned for the 11-block area.
"We already have a waiting list for the next units," said manager Holland, who added that market rents range from $229 for one-bedroom to $280 for two but most of the tenants, who pay their own electric utility bills, get a deduction of $50 or $55 a month and also qualify to pay no more than 25 per cent of their monthly income for rent.
The DIP Limited Partnership includes NHP and Thomas P. Harkins, Inc., as general partners and the latter is also the builder. Financing is under Section 236 federal subsidized housing. Financing for Old Town West was arranged by Walker & Dunlop with Alexandria National Bank, Union Trust Co. and First National Bank of Washington.
At Fairmont I and II. where 218 midrise units were rehabilitated, occupancy is full in the area that is now starting to show signs of coming back. The Fairmont buildings, which had been scarred and mosty vacant, were rejuvenated under a HUD mortgage insurance program of $4.7 million under Section 221 (d) (3) and a commitment for rental subsidies to tenants. Federal City Housing Corp. was a cosponsor with NHP. Construction General, Inc., of Silver Spring, pledged to use minority sub-contractors. Henderson L. Walker's group was the architect and Walker & Dunlop arranged financing with Interstate Federal S & L. Capital City Federal S & L and First Fedeal S & L here.
In Reston, NHP stimulated the creation of 240 subsidy rental units in the Fox Mill project that had been the source of some neighborhood problems until Fairfax Supervisot and NHP management moved in a year ago to create a new atmosphere based on community activity, better services and tenant selection. Another completed NHP rental project includes 140 units on Nalley Road in Lanham.
In addition to stimulating the rental housing market, NHP has sought to keep its own ship afloat financially by recently participating with builders and developers in sale housing projects for moderate-income families. A notable record was made in 15 recent weeks at Springmeadowns in the Jacobs Road area at Laurel, where 111 town-houses were sold at prices in the $36,000 range. Capital Homes, Inc., is the developer, Construction, General the builder. Lewis-Silverman handles sales, with both FHA and VA financing.
Capital Homes, Inc., is a subsidiary of Housing Capital Corp., the branch of NHP that provides equity capital to enable builders to stabilize their projects and increase their opportunity to build. According to George M. Brady, president of NHP, the capital role in the Washington-Baltimore area has included land purchases, bringing together builders, architects, engineers and even marketing expertise. Other area sale housing projects include Wooded Ridge in Columbia, Rosedale in Oxon Hill, Hickory Farms and River Farms in Fairfax, and Pinewood Oaks and Pinewood Glen in the Springfield area. An earlier townhouse project, Stillmeadows in the Laurel area, was a quick sellout.
The superstructure of the National Corp. for Housing Partnerships, now generally known as NHP, includes veteran Washington mortgage banker, George M. DeFranceaux, as chairman of the board. While earlier serving as president after housing professionals Ray Watt and Carter Burgess went through the conception stage with NHP, DeFranceaux personally solicited and obtained millions of seed money from corporations such as American Standard, Inc., Deere & Co., GAF Corp., Kennecott Copper, Maytag, Olin Corp., RCA, Westinghouse and scores of thrift institutions. He also got NHP involved in varied projects.
Other than tax credits, the return to investors has been mostly in seeing more housing built for low-income and elderly persons. As DeFranceaux and Brady put it in their report to the President of the U.S.: "We (NHP) have never failed to complete a project and we have never had a project in which we were a general partner go into foreclosure." Also it was added: "If the nation is to continue building decent homes for families of low and moderate income, it is essential that the tax incentives be extended or that a viable alternative be developed."