Over the past 40 years, Philadelphia’s Fairhill neighborhood has strived to revitalize. Once a blighted post-industrial district, Fairhill – served by El Centro de Oro or “The Golden Center” commercial district – is today the city’s center of Hispanic and Latino life and culture. This community comprises nearly 85% of Fairhill’s population, and the area is home to diverse businesses, arts and cultural organizations, and welcoming public spaces.
Fairhill’s growing success as a community is due in no small part to the Hispanic Association of Contractors and Enterprises (HACE), a local 501(c)(3) community development organization. Founded in 1982, HACE has invested more than $200 million to create affordable housing and promote Fairhill’s economic development, while encouraging the community’s residents to take ownership of their own economic trajectory.
In 2018, HACE began planning for Casa Indiana. The project would provide affordable rental housing for one of the community’s fastest growing populations: low-income seniors – many with language and cultural barriers limiting their access to essential services. Built on a property that had sat vacant for more than 30 years, the project was also planned to serve as an anchor for future economic development.
TD Bank helped source financing for this project by providing a $6.8 million bridge loan for construction, which along with developer fees, would be repaid with $11.4 million of low-income housing tax credits (LIHTC). Additional funding included $2 million from the City of Philadelphia, $1.8 million in Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Fund (PHARE) and Housing Trust Fund (HTF) funds, and an additional $456,000 equity contribution by HACE. Rental subsidies are being provided by the Philadelphia Housing Authority.
The City of Philadelphia donated the abandoned property – a brownfield requiring significant environmental remediation and containment. During the LIHTC underwriting process, costs for the environmental work escalated, exceeding the project’s original estimate. Faced with paying the additional expense out-of-pocket, HACE applied for an Affordable Housing Program (AHP) grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh (FHLBank).
Established by Congress, AHP provides grants and subsidized loans for the acquisition, construction or rehabilitation of affordable housing for households with incomes at or below 80 percent of the area median income. Housing developers partner with FHLBank members to apply for AHP funding, which is offered through one competitive funding round each year.
TD Bank sponsored HACE’s application and the project received a $405,000 award.
“AHP is such a great resource for affordable housing,” said Amy Derstine, HACE’s relationship manager at TD Bank. “The fact that HACE was able to use these funds for environmental remediation was a huge advantage for this project.”
HACE President and CEO Maria Gonzalez concurs. “The AHP award was a timely and essential resource for making this project happen. It was absolutely critical to filling our funding gap and helping us move forward on-budget and on-schedule.”
Casa Indiana opened on June 18, 2020. All 50 one-bedroom apartments were leased within 45 days, which underscored Fairhill’s need for affordable senior housing. Eight of the units are accessible for individuals with mobility challenges and two are equipped for those with hearing and visual impairments. All are adaptable to accommodate the changing needs of residents as they age in place. The project, which includes a community room, library and garden for the residents, received a 2020 award from the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Institute of Architects for building excellence.
All of Casa Indiana’s residents earn 50% or less than the area median income. Working with community partners, HACE offers them a range of support services – from rental subsidy and utility assistance to weekly deliveries of meat and produce. A partnership with Mercy Health provides residents with medical and other services through the Life Center located just three blocks away.
As with the other properties it has developed, HACE will continue to own and maintain Casa Indiana to ensure it will be available and affordable for the next generation of Fairhill’s seniors. “In addition,” says Gonzalez, “this enables HACE to provide jobs for local residents.”
“Fairhill is an area of focus for TD Bank,” adds Derstine, “and we were eager to partner on this project – as a lender and sponsor of HACE’s AHP application. It’s truly rewarding to make a positive difference for Fairhill’s seniors and the community as a whole.”
FHLBank Pittsburgh provides reliable funding and liquidity to its member financial institutions, which include commercial and savings banks, community development financial institutions, credit unions and insurance companies in Delaware, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. FHLBank products and resources help support community lending, housing and economic development. As one of 11 Federal Home Loan Banks established by Congress, FHLBank has been an integral and reliable part of the financial system since 1932. Learn more by visiting www.fhlb-pgh.com.