The Power of Community Engagement in Affordable Housing: Takeaways from the #ImpactTourRaleigh
July 30, 2018
Last Tuesday my colleague Katherine and I traveled to Raleigh, NC for an affordable housing impact tour. The tour was hosted by Community Housing Capital (CHC), an affordable housing impact lender and a borrower of ours, and DHIC, a nonprofit developer of high-quality housing communities in the Triangle region of North Carolina and a borrower of CHC's.
Raleigh is one of the fastest growing cities in the country and as the city becomes more attractive to developers, housing is becoming increasingly unaffordable. Roughly 45% of renters in Raleigh are cost-burdened (spending over 30% of their income on rent (Source) and more than 8,000 Raleigh residents are on the waitlist for housing vouchers. CHC and DHIC are dedicated to addressing these problems through affordable housing that is responsive to local needs.
We toured three properties developed by DHIC in Raleigh: Brookridge Apartments, a supportive housing community for very low-income adults, Meadowcreek Commons, a LEED Silver certified seniors residence, and Washington Terrace, a 23-acre multi-phase affordable housing redevelopment project sited on a historic development originally built in 1950. Each of the properties have supportive services integrated into their operations and available on-site for residents. These include services such as a social worker to provide payment facilitation and connect to local social programs, a resident manager who provides engaging social programming which helps combat isolation, and an on-site childcare center that offers low-cost childcare to residents. DHIC tailors supportive services to the unique needs of each property, engaging the residents and the local community to determine what kind of services they want and need—they don't assume to know what's best for the community.
This power of DHIC's work was reflected in the stories that residents shared as we visited properties throughout the day. A resident who visited us as Brookridge Apartments shared a moving story about how a spot in a DHIC property helped him turn his life around. A few years ago, he was a local business owner, homeowner, and father. After one misdemeanor, a short stint in the prison system, and years of failing health, he found himself homeless and unable to support himself financially. A local community group connected him with a DHIC property, which helped him secure the clean, safe, and affordable housing he needed to get his life and his health back on track. With stable housing situation and permanent address, he was able to recover and manage his medical condition and secure a steady job. His story brought to life the point that community advocates and economists alike make: housing is much more than a place to sleep; it's a cornerstone of well-being, stability, and success.
The Washington Terrace property tour was another highlight of the trip for me. Originally built in 1950, it was the first rental property available to the black community in the Raleigh area. When DHIC heard the property was in foreclosure and would be sold in 2014, they leapt at the chance to preserve this crucial affordable housing in a rapidly changing East Raleigh neighborhood. They secured a $3 million loan from CHC (Calvert Impact Capital's borrower) and financing from the City of Raleigh to purchase the property. After multiple community engagements with current residents and the broader neighborhood, they created a master development plan to expand the property, increasing capacity to approximately 400-500 units, as well as provide community-suggested services like a childcare center, a community gathering room, fitness room, and community garden. All of this will be done with minimal disruption to current residents, as DHIC is developing the property in phases and allowing current residents to remain on-site while the rest of the property is being built.
We were incredibly impressed by DHIC's commitment to providing supportive services, engaging city and county governments, and going above-and-beyond to make their properties a success and their communities thrive. We are proud to help enable their work through our investment in CHC, as they continue to grow and improve the stock of affordable housing in the Triangle region.