There is good news for the housing-challenged Near Southeast Side Fort Worth neighborhood recently renamed Terrell Heights. Last week the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs governing board approved tax credits for a developer, the NRP Group out of San Antonio in partnership with an affiliate of the Fort Worth Housing Finance Corp., to build 54 two and three bedroom, two-story homes scattered throughout the old neighborhood that dates back to the early 20th Century. The project is expected to create 150 jobs. The area’s council representative, Kathleen Hicks, who spearheaded the development, said, in an email, “This 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” convenient to jobs in the hospital district and downtown. “We have worked long and hard for this,” she said. Fort Worth Weekly first reported on the project in “Tough Nut to Crack,” Feb. 3
The $11 million project will be owned by the FWHFC and its newly formed affiliate, a “single asset LLC to be formed for the purpose of owning the project,” Housing Director Jay Chapawrote in an email response. The Fort WorthHousing Finance Corp, overseen by the council as its board of directors, will partner with NRP which will handle the construction and will manage the project once it is complete, Chapasaid. It will be financed withthe “low income housing tax credits approved [by the state] last week, a private loan and HOME funds provided by the city of Fort Worth,” he said. HOME is a U. S. Housing and Urban Development program that provides qualifying low-income families with loans, down-payment assistance and closing costs as well as rental assistance.
This particular housing development is a “rent-to-own” project. Those who qualify will rent the homes for the first 15 years and then they will have the option to buy them at a minimal cost of around $30,000, according to NRP. That “rent-to-own- option bothered some neighborhood activists when the project was first proposed, fearful that renters would not take care of the homes with the same care that homeowners would. It was a crucial point in the project’s life. To qualify for the state tax credit, the project had to have the approval of the residents voting through their neighborhood association. After much debate, the association voted in March to let the project go forward after getting assurances from the builder and manager that it would maintain the properties throughout the renting phase and would assist buyers in cleaning up their credit histories, plus educating them in “home maintenance, energy conservation and financial planning.” Al Piper, president of the Historic Southside Neighborhood Association, was one of the skeptics, but he threw his support behind the developers after winning the above assurances.
“I am not speaking for the association, but personally I believe [the developers] are sincere. I have some optimism,” Piper said at the time. His main reason to support the project was the fact that it would bring jobs to the poverty-plagued district with an unemployment rate far greater than the national average.