3 'Must Do’s' for Converting Historic Buildings Into Affordable Housing

3 'Must Do’s' for Converting Historic Buildings Into Affordable Housing Multi-Housing News (08/25/17) Ferguson, Frances

More and more U.S. downtowns are booming, and nonprofit housing developers are looking to convert historic buildings into affordable housing in these markets. Unfortuantely, there is a daunting array of obstacles from the need for multi-layered financing packages to navigating arcane rules for reclaiming historic buildings. Developers are more than likely to succeed if they start the process early, generate political support along the way, and tenaciously seek out the financial resources to do such a project right. Brad Hunsberger, vice president for real estate development at Indiana-based La Casa, states, "The single best advice for the process is to engage early and often with all the stakeholders. Start with city staff but quickly move on and present your plan to the neighborhoods adjacent to the building [being reused]."

Generating government support is indeed critical. Without endorsement from the local elected representative, a project has little chance of moving forward especially if there are zoning changes needed. Ambitious developers should keep in mind, though, success with one project within a jurisdiction does not automatically lead to success with another in the same area. The rezoning process can be time consuming, expensive, and contentious. Finally, there is the matter of financing. Building affordable apartments involves putting together several pieces of financing. "Available capital is a huge factor in adaptive reuse as it is, by nature, more expensive," concludes Sam Erickson, COO of Community Housing Initiatives.

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