A Blessed Partnership

Affordable Housing Finance | August 26, 2016

A historic church and an affordable housing developer have become unique partners in Mount Vernon, N.Y.

Together, Grace Baptist Church and Mountco Construction and Development Corp. are about to open their third housing development in town.

Grace Terrace will soon open its doors to seniors in Mount Vernon, N.Y. The new development features 21 units for residents earning no more than 30% of the area median income (AMI), 21 units for residents earning no more than 40% of the AMI, and 24 units for residents earning no more than 50% of the AMI.Their latest project is Grace Terrace, a new 10-story building that will provide affordable homes to low-income seniors 55 and older, including 11 frail elderly households. The development features 66 one-bedroom apartments plus a two-bedroom apartment for an on-site superintendent.

More than 800 people have submitted applications for a shot at one of the apartments, a sign of the strong demand for affordable housing in the area.

The church through its affiliate, Grace Community Development Corp., and Mountco are doing their part to meet the need. The team has also built the 133-unit Grace Towers family housing development and the 83-unit Grace Plaza for seniors. All the housing communities are within a block or two of the church.

Led by the Rev. W. Franklyn Richardson, the longtime Baptist church brings its mission drive and community ties to the partnership while Mountco provides the development and construction expertise.

“As I tell the reverend, ‘he’s the visionary and we’re the hammer and nails,’” says Joel Mounty, president of Mountco, a firm that’s built about 4,000 affordable housing units over the years.

At Grace Terrace, 10% of the units are fully adaptable and move-in ready for residents with mobility impairments. There are also apartments move-in ready for people with hearing or visual impairments. In addition, the property has received eight Sec. 8 project-based vouchers.

Designed by Aufgang Architects, the new development is built with a high-performance building envelope and features Energy Star–rated fixtures and appliances throughout the community. Grace Terrace has an outdoor garden adjacent to a community room. There’s also a separate computer lab.

The $18 million development is financed largely with low-income housing tax credits allocated by New York State Homes and Community Renewal. The housing credits raised about $13.3 million in equity for the project through syndicator First Sterling Financial.

The development has also received a $2.4 million low-interest loan through the state Housing Trust Fund; $900,000 from the Westchester County New Homes Land Acquisition program; and $400,000 in HOME funds from the city of Mount Vernon. The city has also approved a payment-in-lieu-of taxes agreement to assist the property.

JPMorgan Chase is providing about $7 million in construction and $1.1 million in permanent financing.

Working with a nonprofit can help Mountco and other for-profit firms compete for funding, but the relationship is more than that, according to Mounty.

“Having this partnership with the not-for-profit really makes our development that much more superior because we have the pulse of the community,” he says. “We know what the people want.”

-Donna Kimura, Affordable Housing Finance


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