Ann Arbor housing commission special board meeting (Jan. 10, 2013): Taking another step toward a public/private partnership, Ann Arbor housing commissioners unanimously voted to choose Norstar Development USA as co-developer for a major new public housing initiative. The action took place at a special board meeting on Jan. 10 called solely to hear presentations from two finalists: Norstar and MHT Housing Inc.
Norstar – based in Buffalo, N.Y. – will help AAHC convert about 275 of Ann Arbor’s 360 public housing units into public/private developments. Residents in those units will receive rental assistance through long-term Section 8 subsidy vouchers that are tied to the buildings. It’s part of a new rental assistance demonstration program, known as RAD, offered by the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). AAHC was accepted into the program late last year, and faced a Jan. 30 deadline to submit its selection of a co-developer to HUD.
The process eventually will entail that ownership of some Ann Arbor public housing properties – to which the city of Ann Arbor holds deed – would be transferred to a new entity. The city, via the AAHC, would retain a small ownership stake in the new entity – likely 1% or less. The arrangement would give AAHC access to private financing to renovate the current public housing properties, using tax credit financing, loans, equity or grants that are not otherwise available to the housing commission.
Executive director of the Ann Arbor Housing Commission Jennifer L. Hall will be making a presentation on this process to the Ann Arbor city council at its Feb. 11 working session.
AAHC also faces a Feb. 15 deadline for the next round of the state’s low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) program, in the category of permanent supportive housing. AAHC officials hope that tax credit financing will provide the bulk of investment for this RAD initiative, but much work is needed to complete the application in time. “You can’t even imagine how much work it will take for us to get into that Feb. 15 round,” Hall told commissioners. They need to hire an appraiser, do a fiscal needs assessment and environmental review, and take a range of other actions.
The goal of this complex set of transactions is not at this point to increase the number of public housing units in Ann Arbor. Instead the goal is to enable AAHC to tap private financing for capital improvements in its existing housing stock, which is aging. Many properties were built in the 1960s and 1970s.
Norstar will be one of at least four entities working with AAHC on this project. The AAHC also has hired Avalon Housing, an Ann Arbor nonprofit, as a consultant to help seek low-income housing tax credits from the state. Avalon’s contract runs through Dec. 31, 2013 for an amount up to $32,000, to be invoiced hourly at $180 per hour.
Two others who are working on the effort are: (1) Tom Davis, a senior vice president of advisory services at Recap Real Estate Advisors, based in Boston; and (2) Rochelle Lento, a real estate attorney with Dykema’s Detroit office. The cost of Dykema’s service is estimated at no more than $40,000. Recap’s compensation could include more than $70,000 for helping AAHC complete the RAD transactions.
Both Davis and Lento attended the Jan. 10 meeting. Also attending his first meeting as the newest housing commissioner was Christopher Geer, an accountant and finance director with PricewaterhouseCoopers. Geer was appointed by city council to replace Andy LaBarre, who resigned last year after being elected to the Washtenaw County board of commissioners.