Developing housing to fit needs of vulnerable Texans
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They can be complex challenges to overcome–how to better serve vulnerable populations and help alleviate an affordable housing crisis. The answers? Focus on the shared experience of working within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s various housing programs; add in a robust health-and-housing initiative between TDHCA, other state agencies and local community-support organizations; and finally, incorporate some type of incentive for the affordable housing builder community.
What you get is the Section 811 Project Rental Assistance Program (811 PRA), a partnership between TDHCA, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) and eligible multifamily properties.
To participate, affordable multifamily housing developers include 811 PRA units or dedicate units in existing properties in order to earn points through TDHCA’s competitive multifamily programs. Health agencies direct eligible individuals to the available housing and coordinate needed services for the resident. TDHCA then facilitates HUD rental assistance to the participating properties to help mitigate the rent burden for the referred 811 PRA clients. With this assistance, qualified individuals, like young adults out of foster care with disabilities and people exiting nursing facilities, can move into high quality communities, achieve independent living and continue to receive the community-based services that ensure their success.
“The Section 811 PRA program is addressing a growing need in our state’s major metro areas,” explained Spencer Duran, TDHCA's Section 811 PRA manager. “The outpouring of support and willingness to participate within the development community has furthered our success, so much so that we fully expect to realize our goal of housing 600 eligible households by 2021.”
Duran points to numerous developers as dedicated proponents of the program, with some that have utilized industry expertise to house a large number of referred 811 clients, successfully; having the flexibility to address the specific needs of each Section 811 PRA clientele enables these properties to ensure that very few clients are not able to meet the developer’s tenant criteria.
Artisan at Judson Park, San Antonio
“Transportation can be challenging, particularly for a new property,” said Ryan Baldwin, Director of Operations and Compliance for Franklin Management. “Because our 811 PRA residents also qualify for VIA (San Antonio Metropolitan transit), we go the extra step to make sure to work with them so they understand what options they may qualify for.”
Open in 2017, Artisan at Judson Park dedicated 12 units to serve Section 811 PRA Program clients. The property has proven to be a popular choice for qualified 811 PRA recipients. As of today, the property has rented 100 percent of the dedicated units.
“If you have experience with any of the HUD programs, participating in this (Section 811 PRA) was a no brainer. There’s a massive shortage of housing for people with disabilities,” explained Baldwin. “When the City of San Antonio was looking to develop a vacant lot, I did a whole presentation about the program and how it could really impact residents’ lives.”
Lexington Manor, Corpus Christi
“At the beginning, it was such a new program and everyone wanted to know exactly what it would require,” explained Brad McMurray, VP of Property Development with Prospera HCS. “Every point in the 9% HTC application scoring is important, so you have to get all you can. With Lexington Manor we had a unique situation and we already had a staff familiar with HUD processes.”
A recipient of a 9% HTC award in 2014, Lexington Manor was just coming online when the 2015 application cycle began. Prospera set aside 10 apartments for Section 811 PRA program clients in order to be competitive in the 2016 cycle, and added an additional 10 program units to the property in 2017. Lexington Manor has moved-in 8 Section 811 PRA households, accounting for 40 percent of their dedicated units.
“Prospera’s whole purpose is to help those in need, and this program allows us to provide a unit that is based on what an individual can actually pay. It’s truly affordable housing,” McMurray said. “Lexington Manor has a very stable residency, with very low turn-over rates. The opportunity provided a benefit to the property that we feel is a win-win all the way across.”
Patriot Palms, El Paso
“I’m so glad I checked that box in 2015,” explained Bobby Bowling, President of Tropicana Building. “Older properties are a little harder to rent up, and since I had existing vacancies at Patriot Palms, why not use those to get points. Patriot Palms was up and running and this program was going to give us guaranteed tenants.”
From the earliest planning stages, Bowling explains that he was really impressed with how the program balanced the rental assistance with rental rates. Texas’ Section 811 PRA Program was designed to establish a fair rent rate that incentivized affordable housing developers to participate and provide a reasonable rent payment for program recipients to pay. Thus, Section 811 PRA participating properties’ rents align closely with the amounts approved through the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Programs.
“We asked ourselves, ‘How can we make this program a financial success for us?’” explained Bowling. “Through the rental payment design of it (Section 811 PRA), we realized the full value of the program.”
Patriot Palms, built in 2006 and situated about 15 miles from downtown El Paso, was one of the first properties to commit to the program with TDHCA in 2015. Since then, the property has leased units to 9 households under the Section 811 PRA initiative, accounting for 90% percent of their Section 811 PRA units.
“The Section 811 service providers absolutely loved what this program was going to do, and they were blown away on how our properties looked,” explained Bowling. “Our tenants are well-served by living here; we were tailor-made to do this.”
To date, the Section 811 PRA Program has 119 properties that have made a commitment to the program, and more than 500 service providers trained to refer tenants and coordinate services to the more than 256 households that have been served. Along with TDHCA, the agencies and affordable housing developer community are making a lasting impression on how the health-and-housing formula can be successful.
If you or someone you know needs similar assistance, please visit our Help for Texans page to find a local provider.
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Section 811 Project Rental Assistance Program