Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Dan Chandler posted a comment on NAC last month about mixed use housing for people with low incomes. It was very well written and informational, so with his permission, this is a reprint of his comments.

"Smoketown and Clarksdale both used federal HOPE VI grants. HOPE VI began i 1992 as a New Urbanist way replace barrack -style "projects" with New Urbanist, mixed-use, mixed income neighborhoods. At its inception, HOPE VI required one-to-one replacement of low-income units. However, this one-to-one requirement was repealed by Congress in 1998.

While HOPE VI is still on the books, Congress has not funded it in several years. Therefore, if new low income housing happens in New Albany, it likely will be from a funding source other than HOPE VI. New Albany has never applied for HOPE VI and I doubt we'll ever get the chance.

Today except for specialty programs aimed at assisted living, etc., Congress mainly looks to the Section 42 Low Income Housing Tax Credit for affordable housing development. As part of the stimulus package, Indiana's annual LIHTC allotment for 2009 is triple what is normally allotted in other years. Under LIHTC, developers only receive credits for those units set side for families making no more than 60% or 50% (depending on their particular application) of the area median income. LIHTC has been used in New Albany at St. Edwards Court, various old-house-to-4-plex conversions along E. Spring and some apartments by IUS.

I'd like to see the problem of replacing New Albany's barrack-style "projects" unit for unit, with something less concentrated. Unfortunately, no one locally is pushing for good LIHTC development, or any LIHTC development at all. LIHTC housing can take just about any form you want. They've been used on a LEED certified high-rise in San Diego. They've been used on scattered site developments in Louisville by groups like New Directions and The Housing Partnership.

Since there's so much LIHTC money floating around this year, and since Indiana Housing has said that this year they are giving preference to historic rehabilitation in their LIHTC allocations,I'm disappointed that no one (to my knowledge) is putting together a LIHTC application for New Albany. To get sufficient economies of scale, you need at least 24 units to do a LIHTC project. With combined LIHTC and Historic Tax Credits, a developer would need to put virtually no money into a deal; they only would have to show sufficient financial strength to backstop the deal if something unexpected happened.

A New Albany project could be 30 new units at the Moser Tannery, it could be 24 rehabbed shotguns scattered around town, or it could be six 4-plexes. When you take LIHTC, HUD watches the property very closely for 15 to 30 years (again depending on the project). It's much better rental housing that one typically finds in New Albany; all HUD guidelines for construction, lead paint, etc., must be met. Groups like New Directions and Housing Partnership consult on putting these applications together. Someone just has to roll up their sleeves and make it happen.

As a side note, in our New Markets Tax Credit application, which is aimed at mixed use development, I specified that we would set aside 20% of new housing units for those making no more than 60% of the area median income. Therefore if we receive the NMTC's and all the credits are used on new development along the Main St., you'll see new affordable housing in places where there is no affordable housing today."

I have seen the Smoketown and Clarksdale areas Dan mentioned. They look beautiful. There are single family homes, duplexes and 4 plexes all on well maintained streets. As Dan mentioned, this could happen on our Main St. Perhaps this could be incorporated in the "Master Plan" suggested for the area.

Things are really picking up in downtown New Albany, let's not stop now. Developers, are you reading this?