Last week, the Texas Department of Community Affairs Board approved a low income tax credit request from a developer from San Antonio, the NRP Group, to build 54 two- and three-bedroom, two-story houses in the Near Southeast neighborhood now known as Terrell Heights. That means 150 construction jobs in the short term and affordable housing for area families in the long-term said a jubilant Kathleen Hicks, the area’s city council representative who has been promoting the project since February. “I am very excited,” Hicks wrote in an email. The new housing “signals a new positive chapter on the south side and ensures that working families will have a place of their own in the central city” near jobs in the hospital district and downtown,” she said. Fort Worth Weekly first reported on the project in a Feb. 3 article, “Tough Nut to Crack.”
The $11 million project is expected to be completed within two years. According to housing department director Jay Chapa, the project is a partnership arrangement between NRP, which will construct the homes and manage the properties, and the Fort Worth Housing Finance Corporation, which will form a “single asset LLC” that will own the homes. The FWHFC is a non-profit arm of the housing department set up to finance low-income housing mostly in the inner-city. The council is its board of directors. Financing for this project, Chapa said, will come from the tax credit approved last week, a private loan and federal funds from the U. S. Housing and Urban Development HOME program, which assists low-income families with down payments and closing costs for first-time home buyers as well as rental assistance.
The FWHFC will oversee the project as the general partner, Chapa said. This project is different from other developments in the area that initially brought hope for revitalization but ultimately fell apart, because this time the homes will be “rent-to-own.” This financing scheme means that after 15 years, the renter has the option to buy the house for the balance of the mortgage which will be around $30,000 according to a NRP spokesman. This will be the first such financing for low-income families in Fort Worth, said Hicks.
Some neighborhood activists were skeptical of the financing arrangements in the beginning, said Historic South Side Neighborhood Association president Al Piper at the time, fearing that renters would not take care of the properties as well as homeowners. However, after assurances from the developer that it would manage and maintain the properties for the duration of the rental lifetime, and would also provide training for the residents in home maintenance, energy conservation and help them clean up their credit histories, the majority of the members of the association were ready to sign on. Now, time will tell if these new developers on the block will be able to do what others have failed to do, build sufficient quality housing to lift the good folks of the Near Southeast Side out of poverty and entice commercial developers to revive the once prosperous area as well.