Affordable Housing Program
Just because housing is affordable doesn’t mean it has to be unattractive. Washington Historic Residences dispels this myth. With its stark-white, modern exterior, the building stands out on an idyllic street in the small community of Independence, Kansas.
Cohen-Esrey Development Group, LLC, and PreservingUS, Inc., worked together to renovate the 1940s-era Washington School into a senior living community. “In rural areas, we often see schools going through consolidation,” explained Tim Quigley, development director for Cohen-Esrey.
“The school had sentimental value. After it closed in 2011, the community wanted to see the building used and embraced the idea of making it into housing.”
Washington Historic Residences includes 23 one- to two-bedroom units, 14 of which are targeted to seniors with incomes below 50% of the area median. It’s the third affordable housing development in Independence in recent years. In each instance, the project was met with high demand.
Once construction began, local seniors were clamoring to find out more. “We received many calls once the sign went up,” said Angela Morehead, executive director of PreservingUS, Inc. “We just had the official ribbon-cutting and we are nearly full.”
Besides the beautiful architecture, supportive services also make the community attractive to residents. PreservingUS customizes the services to what each community needs. In Independence, medical care is at the top of the list. With the local hospital closing a few years ago, people in Independence had to travel to neighboring communities to see a doctor.
Morehead’s organization is working on setting up a satellite wellness center in Washington Residences. They also expect to offer organized gatherings to build camaraderie among the residents, as well as provide transportation assistance for groceries and other doctor’s visits.
Paying for a community project like this isn’t easy. The project qualified for the National Register for Historic Places and as a result was eligible for both federal and state historic tax credits. After securing low-income housing tax credits (LIHTC), there was still a gap.
They filled the majority of the gap with a $301,697 Affordable Housing Program (AHP) grant from FHLBank Topeka. Every AHP project must be sponsored by an FHLBank member bank. In this case, BOK Financial acted as the construction lender and AHP sponsor. “BOK Financial is proud to be a part of the redevelopment of Washington School,” said Lisa Albers, Senior Vice President, Community Development for BOK Financial. “Washington Historic Residences will provide much needed quality affordable housing to the area while also preserving a building that means so much to the local community of Independence, Kansas.”
“The AHP grant was the final piece of the puzzle,” said Quigley. “It was integral for us to move forward with bringing this housing option to Independence.”