The Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority (FCRHA) has completed the financial closing for the much anticipated One University development project – clearing the way for construction to begin on Fairfax County’s latest affordable housing community.
The project also marks a historical milestone in becoming the first Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) converted property to obtain US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) approval for demolition and redevelopment.
The development will deliver 120 units of affordable multifamily apartments, 120 units of affordable senior independent living, and 333 units of student housing on a 10.8-acre property adjacent to the George Mason University Campus.
Throughout the development phase, the FCRHA and HUD worked closely to blaze a trail and create a process which countless other RAD properties may follow to preserve and create affordable housing in communities across the nation.
“We are very proud that the FCRHA has, once again, proven itself to be a leader in the affordable housing industry,” said FCRHA Chairman Melissa McKenna. “The strong relationship we have with our HUD colleagues and the countless hours of work spent with them on One University have resulted in innovations in process, resourcing, and design to deliver a one-of-a-kind project that will serve as a model for many others to follow.”
Like many communities across the country, affordable housing is one of Fairfax County’s most significant challenges – as indicated by a projected need for 15,000 net new homes for individuals and families earning up to 60 percent of the area median income (roughly $77,400 for a family of four). The development of One University is a critical component for expanding the county’s affordable housing portfolio and will quintuple the number of affordable homes currently available on the site—creating 240 affordable housing homes from 46 current units.
“One University is a powerful demonstration of this county’s determination to provide more affordable and accessible housing opportunities in every corner of the County,” said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay. “We are proud of the continued work of the FCRHA to utilize every tool we have to achieve and surpass our affordable housing goals.”
One University is a prime example of Fairfax County’s multifaceted approach to financing affordable housing by strategically utilizing all of the tools and resources available. The financing plan for One University includes a creative investment of both financial and land resources. While the FCRHA has issued $20 million in revenue bonds, $6.5 million in county Housing Blueprint funding, and project-based subsidies for 71 units to support the construction and long-term operation of the project, the contribution of public land owned by the FCRHA was also a critical component to this development’s financial viability. The portion of the land contribution related to the 240 units of affordable rental housing equated to a subsidy of approximately $12 million. Strafford Capital Group provided equity, and M&T Realty Capital Corporation provided FHA-insured loans.
“The investment of public land for the purpose of developing affordable housing has proven to be a significant asset in our advancement of affordable housing across the county,” said FCRHA Chairman Melissa McKenna. “As jurisdictions have the ability to take the cost of land out of the equation, it removes a major barrier that often makes it prohibitive for affordable housing to compete for real estate against market-rate developments.”
One University is also an example of a strategic approach to the creation of affordable housing. Pursuant to the terms of a ground lease, private, developer SCG Development Partners, LLC, will construct, own and operate the 240 total units of multifamily and senior housing. Concurrently, a portion of the FCRHA property will be leased to another private developer, RISE, for the development of 333 units of student housing. In addition to creating 240 units of affordable housing in a highly cost-burdened Fairfax/Fairfax City area, the project will also provide the following benefits:
- The development is in close proximity to public transportation, shopping and restaurants, grocery stores and George Mason University campus amenities
- Units will have long-term affordability
- Design will incorporate multiple universal and sustainable features
- Ten percent of the units in each building will be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act
- Common area amenities including business center, cyber lounge, outdoor courtyard, underground parking, bike storage, fitness center and more.
“It has been exciting to participate in the progression of the One University project from concept to construction in the Braddock community,” said Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw. “I am very proud that One University will serve as a long-term example of forward-thinking development that literally opens doors for residents in every phase of live to have a decent, safe, affordable home.”
Nixon Peabody LLP’s Kathie Soroka led the Nixon Peabody legal team, which also included Brendan Cardella-Koll and Patrice Harris. This team partnered with the Fairfax County Attorney’s Office to provide legal support and advice to the FCRHA for the closing of this innovative deal.
“Congratulations to the FCRHA team for closing this first-of-its-kind, HUD-approved post-RAD redevelopment,” said Kathie Soroka, counsel in Nixon Peabody LLP’s Affordable Housing & Real Estate practice group. “This redevelopment will serve as a model for other housing authorities seeking to expand affordable housing opportunities even after RAD conversion.”
The site preparation for One University is already underway, and project partners are preparing to officially celebrate the project with a groundbreaking ceremony in late January.
Ben Boxer, Fairfax County Department of Housing and Community Development
Jaszver Bauzon, Nixon Peabody LLP