Affordable-housing group seeks partners

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — At the nine communities for seniors that DHIC has developed in Wake County, Resources for Seniors coordinates a range of services.

Those include health and education programs, assistance with transportation, screening for high blood pressure and diabetes, flu-shot clinics, and tips on nutrition and healthy cooking.

While it dates to 1994, the partnership with Resources for Seniors reflects a strategy DHIC will be pursuing more aggressively as it looks for ways to better serve people who live in affordable housing.

“Our goal is to explore new partnerships that allow us to make full and better use of local services that are already being provided by other agencies, and then to match those services with the needs of our residents” says Yvette Holmes, who joined the nonprofit agency in January as its first director of community partnerships and development after serving for 18 years as campaign director at the United Arts Council of Raleigh and Wake County.

Formed in 1974 as the Downtown Housing Improvement Corporation, DHIC has developed and owns 1,600 housing units at 32 sites, most of them in Wake County.

The agency operates with a $1.5 million annual budget and a staff of 13 employees, and serves roughly 3,000 individuals and families a year, most of them renting housing, with about 300 families that participated in home-buyer workshops.

Revenue includes over $100,000 in core operating support from the City of Raleigh; $130,000 to $140,000 a year in core operating support from NeighborWorks America, a group chartered by Congress to spur affordable housing and community development; $100,000 from foundations and banks; and $250,000 in apartment rent income.

The balance consists of fee income paid to DHIC by its equity investors when it completes development of projects.

DHIC sells tax credits to its investment partners, reducing their tax liability in return for equity that reduces the mortgage loans the agency must borrow and thus the rents its tenants pay.

According to county planners, Wake needs 25,000 units of affordable housing, defined as housing that does not consume more than 30 percent of household income for a family of four, says Gregg Warren, president and executive director of DHIC.

A key challenge in developing affordable housing, he says, is finding available land, a challenge DHIC is addressing through partnerships with developers like Craig Davis Properties, which was involved in the sale of commercial real estate for Wakefield Plantation.

Through that partnership, DHIC developed two separate developments at Wakefield, including 80 apartments for families and 96 apartments for seniors.

And with the aging of the Baby Boomer generation, or those born from 1946 through 1964, demand for affordable seniors housing is surging, Warren says.

In addition to seniors and low-wage workers, the population DHIC serves includes single men and women in recovery from addiction, as well as single parents and people who work downtown in local businesses, such as restaurants, nonprofits and arts groups.

“There’s a real need for a range of housing opportunities in downtown Raleigh,” Warren says.

In her new job, Holmes aims to identify funding sources to support direct services to residents of DHIC properties, and to develop partnerships with other agencies to help provide those services.

DHIC also continues to look for real-estate opportunities.

“That means land that is affordable, close to schools, transit, community services, grocery stores,” Warren says.

DHIC developments are “well-designed, well-constructed, well-managed, and can be an asset to any neighborhood in Wake County and the Triangle,” he says.

And they boost the economy: In 2009, 2010 and 2011, DHIC construction projects created about 220 jobs, plus another 54 ongoing jobs, he says.

And in 2011, DHIC paid $344,000 in Wake County taxes.

“We’re creating jobs,” Warren says.