NRHA Receives Two NAHRO Merit Awards

For More Information: 

Kelly R. Williams
kwilliams@nrha.us
757.314.1645

For Immediate Release
Release Date: 
Wed, 05/19/2010

Two Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority (NRHA) programs received Merit Awards from the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO). The awards will be presented during a special reception on Thursday, July 22 during the NAHRO Summer Conference in Boston, Massachusetts. The annual competition recognizes the most innovative housing and community development projects, programs and services across the U.S. Both programs also received nominations for National Awards of Excellence that will be announced in the fall.

The following outlines the programs in greater detail.

 

Park Place: Restoring a Historic Neighborhood
The Park Place section of Norfolk was once a sought after section of the city. However, after World War II, the neighborhood began a decline as families moved to outlying suburbs. Homes were rented out by negligent absentee landlords, causing a disproportionate rental versus homeownership ratio that significantly added to the decline of the neighborhood. Aging buildings fell into disrepair and businesses moved out. Noticing a need to restore the area, NRHA came up with the Historic Condo Development Program to address multiple issues simultaneously and created 62 condo units in a three year period.

 

NRHA began by putting together a solution to address the derelict apartment buildings while holding onto the neighborhood’s historic architectural details and providing homeownership opportunities for residents at 50-80 percent AMI. NRHA worked with the owners and developers of the buildings to convert them from rental to for-sale condominiums by providing grants of up to $50,000 per building to subsidize renovation costs and worked with local banks to provide below market financing. NRHA provided developers with architectural technical assistance, construction plan review, as well as guidance in preparing complicated condo documents. NRHA provided building inspections by a structural engineer and trades team to ensure the buildings were up to appropriate standards. Low interest mortgage financing was made available to all prospective buyers and HOME Investment Partnership Program (HOME) funds for eligible buyers. Sourcing of Federal Home Loan Bank (FHLB) funds for eligible buyers was also provided by NRHA. The Authority’s HomeNet department helped locate and prepare buyers.

 

Six apartment buildings were converted, providing 62 units for homeownership at price points ranging from $109,000 to $184,000. The neighborhood as a whole also benefited from these projects, as home values increased as the ratio of homeowners versus renters changed.

 

Units that were primarily rental were converted to homeownership, generating tax revenues for the City of Norfolk and changing the rental versus owner ratio for the neighborhood. The program also produced homeownership opportunities for low to moderate income buyers while maintaining historical buildings, which would have been demolished rather than preserved.


Sparking Renewal in an Underserved Neighborhood
Long overdue funding resulted in a much needed $1 million revitalization program for neighborhoods in Wards Corner. The City of Norfolk, working with NRHA, approved a revitalization program for more than 1200 homes in three neighborhoods in Wards Corner – a section of the City often overlooked for funding.

 

In 2006, an assessment by NRHA and consultants from the Center for Urban and Regional Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, “underscored the need for immediate action.”

 

The study concluded in general that “Wards Corner is characterized by strong, relatively stable neighborhoods of modest, well-kept homes," where most areas remain desirable and that “property values have increased considerably through much of the area."

 

However, poor property maintenance contributes to a “vicious cycle" of increased crime and decreased values, which “could spill over into surrounding neighborhoods, threatening their stability and quality."

 

In September 2008, City officials allocated $1 million for 2009 for three neighborhoods in Wards Corner. The Wards Corner Residential Renovation and Remodeling Services program, sponsored by NRHA, offers qualified homeowners in Denby Park, Oakdale Farms and Monticello Village loans and grants to make interior and exterior home repairs and improvements. The rehabilitation programs serviced homeowners below 120% Area Median Income (AMI). For example, the income for a family of four must be below $81,500.

 

NRHA administers four programs, which include interior and exterior repairs and improvements to bring aging homes up to current code, safety and aesthetic standards. The Authority works with the homeowners in processing applications and with contractors in determining the scope of work. NRHA oversees the work being done by the contractors and works with the City's code officials.

 

On January 29, 2009, NRHA hosted an informational meeting for the residents of Denby Park, Oakdale Farms and Monticello Village. Over 130 residents, more than double the expected number, attended the meeting, which proved just how important these programs and funding actually were. The meeting caught the attention of The Virginian-Pilot newspaper, resulting in an article in the Norfolk section of the February 8, 2009 edition. This program proves what can be accomplished when funding is made available to adapt post-war housing to meet today’s lifestyles and market expectations. It is designed to make rehabilitation affordable to low and moderate income homeowners. In January 2009, NRHA was inundated with applications. A total of 63 applications were received, with 47 of those qualifying, which substantially exceeded the number of applicants anticipated and the amount of funds set aside by the City of Norfolk. In just six months, 21 homeowners received assistance through the Norfolk Home Rehabilitation program. NRHA signs were posted in each of the 21 yards, contractors began their work and neighbors and the local newspaper took notice. An article ran in July 25, 2009 edition of The Virginian-Pilot and an article was posted on their website the following day, highlighting the progress of renovations of two Wards Corner homeowners.

 

Beverly Sexton, Wards Corner Civic League Vice President, stated “you can see there have been a few changes, but we have a long way to go…we could really use some more grant money for NRHA.”

 

She went on to explain how residents are beginning to come out from behind their doors and talk to their neighbors once again. A sense of community pride is swelling in Wards Corner.

 

All 21 projects assisted in Fiscal Year 2009 have been completed and all funds have been disbursed. The investments into these projects increased the average value of each home by approximately $14,000, which also has a bearing on the values of the properties that surround them.

 

The majority of homes in this target area were mass produced, post World War II housing. Many of the walls had no insulation (similar to mobile home construction), most still had floor furnace type heaters, inadequate electrical panel boxes, etc. NRHA worked with the City of Norfolk codes department, the contractors and homeowners to coordinate the rehabilitation work to insure that the work performed during the rehabilitation would be approved by the City. Though compliance with all current codes was not feasible, the homeowner was left with a home void of health and safety hazards and increased property values.

 

In the first year, 21 homeowners were assisted out of a total pool of 1200 homeowners (1.8%). It reduced the number of homes condemned by the City of Norfolk. It also demonstrated a quantifiable need to City officials as the number of applications exceeded expectations and funds were used faster than anticipated. A long waiting list also resulted, giving residents the opportunity to show just how much these neighborhoods not only need the funding, but are willing to work with both NRHA and the City to improve the area.

 

Of the original $1 million of Capital Improvement Funds, only $75,000 (8%) was set aside for administrative and advertising costs. However, the actual cost for these services was $140,000. A total of $907,266 funded the 21 loans and grants provided and a small balance funded eligible project cost. The investments into these 21 projects had a positive influence on private investment within the neighborhood, which was not expected during the current economic decline.
 

 

About NRHA: 

Founded in 1940, NRHA is a national leader in community revitalization and fostering sustainable mixed-income communities. As the largest redevelopment and housing authority in Virginia, NRHA plays a key role in making Norfolk the city of choice to build, work, live and play.

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