Village Place Apartments: Creating a Premier Senior Development From Market Rate to Affordable Housing
- Mar 05, 2015
Conceived and developed by Housing Trust Group (HTG), Village Place, a 112-unit urban-styled mid-rise development located in the Flagler Village neighborhood of downtown Fort Lauderdale, Fla., represents a unique affordable housing offering for senior (55+) residents. Village Place features an outstanding urban location, high-quality “market-rate” finishes (such as wood flooring and granite countertops) and a broad variety of striking unit designs (including split-level townhomes) all set in a gated, mid-rise community with eco-friendly features such as low-flow fixtures, low VOC paint, Energy Star appliances & windows, and all constructed in accordance with National Green Building Standards.
HTG’s involvement with Village Place began back in 2011, when the site’s previous owner offered the land, along with its well-advanced development plans and approvals, for sale during the tail-end of the most recent economic downturn, or what is commonly referred to as the “Great Recession.” As originally planned, the project was intended to be either a market-rate for-sale condominium or market-rate rental community. After completing our extensive and thorough due diligence process, and because our company has significant experience in multiple market disciplines, our view was that Village Place possessed all of the key elements necessary for success, in particular, due to its outstanding location which is just blocks from the popular Las Olas Boulevard area, with convenient access to a vast array of transportation modes (including the “Wave” Streetcar opening in 2017) and a multitude of nearby parks, dining, shopping and entertainment venues.
Instead of pursuing a “me-too” strategy consistent with neighboring developments, HTG opted to re-direct the market positioning of the project by aiming to serve previously unsatisfied demand for high-quality residential apartments targeted to seniors (55+) who qualify for income-restricted housing. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Fair Housing Act defines seniors as age 55 and up, a growing demographic in South Florida and part of the baby boomer generation.
After deciding to pursue financing as an affordable housing development, HTG applied for 9 percent low income housing tax credits (LIHTC), which were won in a competitive process at the State level and which were ultimately awarded in 2012. LIHTCs, construction debt, permanent debt and a local government contribution in the form of a HOME loan provided by Broward County were all used to facilitate the $25 million development that was successfully completed in December 2014 and which opened with 100 percent occupancy.
The final product HTG delivered at Village Place differs from the original plans which were purchased in that we made various strategic changes to the plans and specs so that we could include all scoring related items in the revised plans. This allowed us to achieve a perfect score in the competitive 9 percent LIHTC financing cycle in 2011. As an example, there were changes to our unit mix regarding the number of bedrooms in each unit, as senior housing typically benefits from a majority of one- and two-bedroom unit types (as opposed to a family-oriented development, which benefits from more three-bedroom units). Additionally, we designed a library area for use by our senior residents.
One of the important factors that originally attracted HTG to this unique opportunity was our ability to effectively utilize an already well advanced, vetted and preliminarily approved development plan for the project. The building, designed by Sotolongo Salman Henderson Architects of Miami (Sotolongo), provided an outstanding architectural opportunity for this urban site which is a positive addition to the neighborhood and effortlessly blends in with its surroundings. Sotolongo’s design includes a highly effective use of the building envelope allowing for an interesting mix of unit types, which surround an elevated and enclosed courtyard with a rooftop pool offering spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean. Given the superlative elements included in the proposed design, it was not necessary to make significant changes in the overall layout of the space. The final product looks and feels like a market-rate development because of our collection of highly sought features and amenities like gated access, indoor parking, a community center with computers and Wi-Fi access; a breathtaking rooftop pool with views to the Atlantic Ocean and a state-of-the-art fitness center with top-of-the-line exercise equipment.
Village Place represents a prime example of HTG’s ability to blur the difference between market-rate and affordable housing, which is one of core competencies. In our view, a key to future success among real estate developers, particularly in urban markets, will be their ability to operate expertly in both the affordable and market rate areas. This versatility will allow them to seek, find, finance and deliver on development opportunities which effectively serve either or both sources of future market demand. Given the ups and downs of real estate cycles, there may well be new opportunities in the future to take market-rate projects in various stages of development to affordable, but for now our affordable housing division is continuing to target affordable developments located in specific areas of need in accordance with the State of Florida’s qualified allocation plan.
Village Place is HTG’s masterpiece affordable housing development, reflecting the beneficial results of a public-private partnership that offers needed and safe housing in an urban setting while improving the quality of life for its senior residents and providing a positive benefit and increased property values to the local community.
Matthew A. Rieger is President & CEO of Housing Trust Group (HTG), a leading Miami-based real estate developer with a portfolio of over 4,000 market-rate and affordable housing units throughout the Southeastern U.S. and Arizona. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.