A Greater Vision
Texas housing authority completes RAD conversion program, looks toward new ways of operating the business
The Housing of Authority of the City of Texarkana, Texas, is now known as Village Communities of Texarkana, Texas (VCTT)
The Housing Authority of the City of Texarkana, Texas (HATT) is in the midst of reinventing its operational focus in the pursuit of new and innovative affordable housing solutions. These moves come on the heels of the housing authority completing its portfolio-wide conversion under HUD's Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program.
For over 80 years, HATT has served low-income families and seniors in Texarkana through accessible housing and Section 8 vouchers. Under the leadership of CEO Antonio Williams, the housing authority has effectively eliminated its public housing program and moved into the realm of asset management and development. These moves allow HATT to remain vital and current to its local communities in addition to making a greater difference in the industry.
"We're still a housing authority and we are providing affordable housing to our low-wealth individuals... but now we have a different way of operating day-to-day - a different speed, utilizing different skills, [with] different expectations while considering our bottom line as we move strategically towards the future," Williams says. "So, we are doing that, but we also are branching out on other things that will diversify our revenue stream. And, of course, at the same time, we're continuously looking further down the street and around the corner. We're getting trained and certified in tax credit compliance, development practices, and customer service. We're doing this so we can eventually take the reins back [on] our HTC properties and henceforth provide the tax credit compliance as well as the day-to-day 'market-quality' operations on the management side as we pursue other unrestricted revenue streams."
Step one in this shift was exiting the public housing program. Through a two-phase, $34 million effort, HATT has successfully closed on the conversion of all its HOPE VI and public housing properties under the RAD program. The housing authority has officially closed on its last conversions in June 2019 and is now 100 percent complete with the plan's execution.
Phase 1 of the plan entailed the conversion of 98 HOPE VI apartment units that were in relatively good condition. The second phase was more intensive, requiring major rehabilitation of 294 public housing units across five properties.
Hunt Capital Partners was a key syndication partner in HATT's RAD conversion program, purchasing $10.79 million in 4 percent tax credit equity during Phase 2.
"Rental Assistance Demonstration is an efficient tool that equips housing authorities with much-needed capital to redevelop and/or preserve their aging public housing portfolios," says Dana Mayo, Executive Managing Director at Hunt Capital Partners. "RAD is one of our key expertise areas. To date, we have completed 38 RAD conversions representing over 4,600 housing units. We were glad to add these units to our growing RAD portfolio by partnering with [HATT] in the revitalization of 294 of their public housing units."
HATT turned to CVR Associates for consulting and guidance as it executed its plan.
"CVR is proud to have worked collaboratively with HATT in the relocation of over 200 families, both to temporary units and their return to the beautiful, rehabilitated units in the HATT portfolio," says Mike Eddings, Vice President of CVR Associates, Inc.
With the full conversion completed, Williams says the community is pleased with the updates and outcome.
"The feedback has been very positive on the end product. Of course, getting to that particular point... it's always challenging to move from place to place," he says. "When the residents were relocating while [we were] in the construction process - in some situations while they were in place - we would experience a little bit of feedback from residents that may express their challenges of the moving process. But that's what happens when anybody moves, and we make our residents as comfortable as possible as we work through the process... However, when the residents have completed their moves and return to the finished product, they really love their units and express that it was worth the inconvenience. It's been a big contrast to what they've been used to, so I consider it a win-win."
As its RAD conversion was ongoing, HATT's team was also building a plan for what comes next for the organization. The housing authority plans to use its experience and new skills to drive additional revenue through the organization and enhance the work it's doing for the city. A key piece of this plan involves more development, both in Texarkana and outside it.
"Now that we've completed this RAD opportunity, we feel that we have 'cut our teeth on the development process, and we want to go ahead and put our hat in the ring in terms of becoming a developer," Williams says. "We've established a couple more instrumentalities. One instrumentality would allow us to induce bonds only, and this is state-wide... We call that particular instrumentality Texas Home Collaborative... And we have another instrumentality that we created called Village Communities Development Corporation that serves as a general partner, general contractor, etc... in development deals, in terms of making the actual development deal more robust for someone who wants to invest in building community. We're currently doing this statewide, as well. We have a couple of deals that are underway right now and we're looking toward those closings really soon."
One local development deal HATT is actively partnering on is the Hotel Grim Apartments in partnership with Cohen-Ersey. The 93-unit property is renovated out of a former historic hotel and has spurred a revitalization effort in downtown Texarkana, Texas, and Texarkana, Arkansas.
HATT is also establishing an affiliate through which it plans to offer technical assistance to smaller housing authorities outside the state of Texas. Each of these new moves for the organization combines to contribute something quite valuable to not only HATT residents but the affordable housing industry at large.
"Building the infrastructure was part of my five-year plan when I first got here, and we've done that... Now the plan is, in perpetuity, to conquer the world and try to put a big deficit in that negative metric of there not being enough affordable housing in the United States..." Williams says. "It's a continuous process... But as things change, as regulations change, we will change with it. We're going to continue to be nimble, we're going to continue to be quick, and we're going to make sure of that."