Higher incomes force housing authority to adjust plans for Hunter Plaza project

Posted Sunday, Jun. 30, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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A rise in household incomes downtown is forcing the Fort Worth Housing Authority to adjust its plans for the $27 million redevelopment of the former Hunter Plaza public housing complex.

Because of rising incomes in the area, the project will lose about $1.1 million in financing it had planned to receive, a project consultant said. To make up the shortfall, Ramon Guajardo, a consultant for the housing authority, said the number of market-rate rental units will be reduced, and some work to improve the building’s exterior will be scaled back.

Downtown no longer qualifies for some housing tax credits because more households are now above the area’s median household income. Housing credits are tax incentives used to encourage the use of private equity in affordable housing development.

According to the nonprofit Downtown Fort Worth Inc., the median household income in downtown is about $125,000 among condo and town home owners, and $83,000 for apartment renters. The U.S. median household income is about $50,046, it said.

Household income for downtown dwellers has been rising for several years. Between 2007 and 2011, the percentage of residents making $100,000 and above rose from 39.6 percent to 51.7 percent, while those at $50,000 and below dropped from 34.9 percent to 9.3 percent.

In the last decade, nearly 900 luxury condos and town homes have been developed downtown.

“Downtown is doing much better,” Guajardo said.

The housing authority is working on a mixed-use, mixed-income residential development at Hunter Plaza, a former public housing property at West First and Burnett streets that closed in 2010 because of a bedbug infestation. The project calls for adding a four-story, 180-space parking garage.

To make up for the lost tax credits, the project will increase the number of affordable units, where costs are lower for renters, from 98 to 115. That will generate about $880,000 in other tax credits, Guajardo said.

And some exterior design and architectural work to change the building’s appearance won’t be done, saving $220,000, he said.

The remaining 49 units will rent at the market rate when the building opens in 2015, he said.

“We still plan to start construction the first of the year,” Guajardo said. “That’s pretty much on target. We’re probably two years away from people moving in.”

Sandra Baker, 817-390-7727 Twitter: @SandraBakerFWST

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