Saturday, June 15, 2024

City allocates $1M in gap financing toward senior affordable housing project

Sterling Reserve, a 56-unit senior affordable housing complex,

WILMINGTON — A trifecta of unanimous votes by city council this week moved through an affordable housing development, targeted at seniors.

Sterling Reserve, a 56-unit apartment complex near Monkey Junction’s Walmart Supercenter is one step closer to fruition. The 1.87-acre property at 5029 Carolina Beach Road was annexed into city limits, zoned for high-density multiple-dwelling residential, and developers were awarded $1 million in gap financing.

READ MORE: One-third NHC residents cost-burdened by housing, more local funding needed

The affordable housing development, for seniors ages 55 and older, will consist of 32 one-bedroom units and 24 two-bedroom units in a single four-story building. Rents will range from $405 to $1,050 per month, aimed at households earning 60% average median income and below.

Fourteen apartments will be reserved for people making 30% AMI, which is $20,000 or below; 11 units will be for households making 50% AMI; and the remaining 31 will be for households making 60% AMI, or roughly $40,000.

Mayor Bill Saffo thanked the developers of Norco Management Holdings at Tuesday’s meeting for answering the demand for more affordable housing, a serious issue he said faces the community.

“You’re trying to provide that in three different levels and we appreciate that,” he added

Norco owner Stephanie Norris said, occasionally, there may be a resident under the age of 55 that comes in, but that person likely has a disability or another factor limiting his or her income.

The group chose the location based on its close proximity to Walmart and other area retail offerings, as well as a Wave bus stop, only a few hundred feet away. A 10-foot multi-use path will be constructed along the entire frontage of the development.

“What I’m really proud of about this program that we are in for affordable housing tax credit programs is you can literally stand on the street and look at our housing and you cannot tell that it’s not market-rate housing,” Norris said.

While it might not have all the amenities of a market-rate complex — such as a pool — she added, it’s constructed of durable, long-lasting, low-maintenance materials. The complex will be equipped with an elevator, laundry room, storage, a multipurpose room, resident computer center, a game and craft room, and a shared outdoor covered porch for the community. 

A covered grill and picnic area, gazebo and raised garden plot are planned outdoors for residents.

The height of the building, proposed at 52 feet, faced some pushback from neighbors at Willoughby Park, just 70 or so feet away. Some spoke about the density and eye sore of a four-story building, but Norris said she was working on an extended buffer to shield its view.

She and the architect also discussed implementing a flat roof, as opposed to a peak roof to reduce the height from 52 to 45 feet. It would cost about $200,000 more, Norris said, adding it’s worth it to push the project through.

Norco submitted an annexation request to the city in March, as the property lies less than a mile from its borders. The developers want the project within city limits to apply for the city’s gap-financing program.

Council agreed to find $1 million from its U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development HOME Investment Partnership Program, appropriated through the city’s budget.

The development of affordable housing is part of the city’s plan to address the housing supply gap, identified by a housing needs assessment from 2021. The study reported approximately 4,153 rental units per year are needed through 2030 for households earning less than 80% AMI. 

The project in total will cost $13.7 million to develop and Terroir Development LLC has applied to the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency to receive Low Income Housing Tax Credits. It will find out if it was awarded by August.

Regardless, Norris assured council the affordability of rent is set in stone.

“The commitments I’m making to you as zoning and a plan, I am making to [NC Housing Finance Agency] and I can’t take that commitment lightly,” she said.

The project anticipates breaking  ground by March 2024, followed by an 18-month build-out, with anticipated completion by early 2025.

“You’ve done this a number of times and they’ve been highly successful, well-planned, well-thought-out,” council member Charlie Rivenbark said to Norris. “I’m all in favor of this.”

Norco runs 26 properties throughout the state, with two in New Hanover County: Lockwood Village and Bennett Village.

Clayton Hamerski, a local real estate agent and chair of Cape Fear Housing Coalition, spoke in support during Tuesday’s meeting, applauding the project.

“Sterling Reserve would provide a safe affordable housing option for our aging neighbors, who are too often priced out of the city, where for decades they have lived, worked, raised their children and built a life,” Hamerski said. “In today’s housing market, we appreciate Norco Management’s willingness to take on the complicated task of developing new housing well below market rate.”

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