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              MAYOR OF ALEXANDRIA,
           TO HOUSING PANEL AT 2008 VML
     I think any of us who have tried to increase the supply of
affordable housing know that it is difficult to do so. In a city such as
mine, it is particularly difficult, since even moderately priced housing is
hard to characterize as “affordable.”

      Nevertheless, if you are willing to be creative, and acknowledge
the fact that nothing you do is going to solve the problem (you won’t be
able to provide all the affordable housing that is needed), there are ways
to increase the supply of affordable housing. I want to talk about three:
assistance for down payment and closing costs; comprehensive home
buyer education; and Alexandria partnerships for affordable housing.


The City of Alexandria has a long history of helping first-time
homebuyers purchase affordable homes (the City’s limit for assisting
purchasers of affordable housing is generally the D.C. metropolitan
area median income) by providing financial assistance.

     The City has two such programs for first-time homebuyers.

     The first of these is the Homeownership Assistance Program,
which assists lower income homebuyers, and has been in place since
1982. The income limit for this program is $79,200 annually for a
family of four.

     A similar program for moderate income first-time homebuyers,
the Moderate Income Homeownership Program, was created in 1997.
The four-person annual income limit for this program is $99,000.

     These programs serve households that either live or work in the
City of Alexandria by providing funds that can be used to pay for a
portion of a down payment or closing costs. All payments are deferred
until the property is sold, and no interest is charged. Lower income
homebuyers can receive up to $50,000, and moderate income
homebuyers can be loaned up to $30,000.

    To date, the City has assisted 907 low and moderate income
households through these two programs.

     Funding for the Homeownership Assistance Program has been
provided through the City’s federal Community Development Block
Grant (CDBG) and HOME Program allocations (HOME is a HUD
program that provides funds for the production and preservation of
affordable housing). The Moderate Income Homeownership Program
has been funded through the City’s Housing Trust Fund.


     Educating first-time homebuyers has proven to be the best way to
help homebuyers stay in their homes and to avoid foreclosure.

     For more than 10 years, the City has been offering free,
comprehensive home buyer education to City residents and workers.
Classes are typically held on Saturdays or in evening hours to maximize

     The City also holds an annual homeownership fair. The 2009 fair
will be the 15th one.

      The city’s homeownership fair has proven to be an important and
effective outreach effort. As many as 800 people have attended this
event in any given year and taken part in the training sessions and
visited information booths offered at the Fair by our partners from the
real estate, lending and mortgage industry.

     In 2004, the City created a new home buyer assistance program
for employees of the City and the city’s public school system called the
Employee Homeownership Incentive Program.

     This program provides a no-interest, deferred payment loan of up
to $5,000 to employees who purchase homes within the City of

Alexandria. There are no income limits for the program and
participants are not required to be first-time homebuyers.

     The City has also received a number of affordable
homeownership and rental units through developer contributions to the
Affordable Set-aside Sales Units Program. To date, 107 sales units and
40 rental units were produced in new construction projects through the
City’s Affordable Housing Policy.


    I think an area where the City has been most creative is the
development of housing Partnerships—and we have a number of them:

First. A key housing partner is VHDA, or the Virginia Housing
Development Authority. Since 2001, VHDA has provided
approximately $47 million to the City through its SPARC Program
(Sponsoring Partnerships and Revitalizing Communities) to provide
discounted mortgage financing to participants in the City’s
Homeownership Assistance and Moderate Income Homeownership
Programs. SPARC funding has enabled buyers to get discounts of up to
1% off VHDA’s already low first-time homebuyer loan rates.

Second. Commercial Lenders and Realtors – The City’s homebuyer
assistance programs rely on the participation of the area’s commercial
lenders and realtors. Lenders and realtors volunteer as trainers for the
required home buyer training classes and serve as a referral source for
lower-income homebuyers who might not otherwise qualify to purchase
a home. Participating lenders and realtors are also key participants in
the City’s annual homeownership fair.

Third. Northern Virginia Association of Realtors – Last year, the City
initiated a partnership with the Northern Virginia Association of
Realtors. The realtors have provided experienced realtors who have
volunteered their time to educate public employees on the home buying
process. As you can imagine, this benefits the realtors, too, since they
are working with potential customers. Recently, the realtors worked
with City staff to present a Foreclosure Prevention Workshop. The aim
of the workshop was to help educate Alexandrians on ways to avoid

foreclosure, and services available to help affected homeowners. This
effort has helped a number of Alexandrians stay in their homes.

Fourth. The City has partnered with the Alexandria Redevelopment
and Housing Authority to promote the Housing Choice Voucher
(Section 8) Homeownership Program to eligible participants in this
program. To date, seven households have moved from assisted housing
to homeownership through the Housing Choice Voucher Program and
the City’s down payment assistance.

Fifth. We work with many private developers to increase our stock of
affordable housing. As I said earlier, private developers have
contributed 107 long-term affordable housing units to the City through
the Affordable Set-aside Sales Units Program. Deeds of covenants,
which control the buyer eligibility and resale process for these units,
ensure that they will remain as affordable housing for up to 30 years.
An additional 64 affordable set-aside units were provided by private
developers as long-term affordable rental housing.

And last but certainly not least, I want to acknowledge the other non-
profit partners we work with, such as the Northern Virginia Urban
League, the Campagna Center, and Hopkins House (the last two are
long-time Alexandria non-profits serving the less affluent in a number
of ways), to expand educational opportunities with respect the home
buying process.


     While most of my remarks so far have focused on ways
Alexandria has tried to help residents purchase affordable housing, we
are also working to preserve affordable rental housing (for rental
housing, affordable is defined as 60% of the area median family income
for the DC metropolitan area).

     Again, acting with partners, over the past few years, we have
helped acquire six affordable housing complexes for rehabilitation and
long-term affordability. Rehabilitation has been completed at one
complex (ParcView Apartments) of about 150 units, 120 of which will
be affordable.

    We have another smaller complex (Beverly Park--33 units) that
has been acquired and is being rehabilitated.

    Several others, totaling about 120 units (Arbelo Apartments, Lacy
Court, Longview Terrace, and Quaker Hill, have been acquired for
preservation as affordable housing but have not yet been rehabilitated.

    Glebe Park is an old apartment complex that is being redeveloped
in partnership with the City’s Housing Authority and will have a
mixture of public housing, workforce housing, and market-rate units.

    We even have one small project where we are partnering to
provide new affordable rental units to low-income seniors, and it
incorporates both new construction and rehabilitation of an existing
building (Beasley Square).

     Our most unique project however, is an innovative mixed-use
building that will include 64 apartment units above a new City fire
station in Potomac Yard, along Route 1 in Alexandria.

      The Station at Potomac Yard is being built through a unique
public-private collaboration that includes the City, the Alexandria
Housing Development Corporation (a private non-profit housing
development organization dedicated to preserving affordable housing),
and Potomac Yard Development, LLC, a joint venture comprised of
Pulte Homes and Centex Homes, the companies redeveloping this 165
acre-site that was formerly a rail yard.

     Potomac Yard Development donated the parcel of land for the
mixed use project, as well as $6.6 million for the fire station and $7.5
million for the affordable housing. The Alexandria Housing
Development Corporation has secured tax credits for the project.

     This concludes a brief summary of some of the programs we have.
I’ll now be happy to answer any questions.


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