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First-of-its-kind HUD funding renovates Dover senior apartments

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Owens Manor HUD Leon Weiner Associates Faircloth to RAD Dover Delaware

A new $29 million renovation using the Faircloth-to-RAD federal conversion program will modernize Owens Manor senior apartments in Dover. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

DOVER – Two affordable senior apartment complexes in downtown Dover are getting modern renovations thanks in part to creative use of a federal housing program by a Delaware developer.

The Dover Housing Authority-owned Owens and Queen Manor Apartments, totaling 110 units at 426 S. New St., are undergoing a $29 million renovation that will update their aesthetics, but also make them more energy-efficient while adding new technology and landscaping.

The project, being undertaken by noted Wilmington-based affordable housing developer Leon N. Weiner & Associates (LNWA), is the first to utilize what’s known as the Faircloth-to-RAD program for the preservation of existing affordable housing rather than the construction of new housing.

Owens Manor HUD Leon Weiner Associates Faircloth to RAD Dover Delaware

The Owens and Queen Manor apartments also received a $1 million federal earmark. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

The project also received $1 million in a federal earmark due to the efforts of Delaware’s federal delegation, and U.S. Sen. Chris Coons celebrated with residents and officials at a kickoff event Friday afternoon.

“It’s great to be in the company of so many folks who’ve worked so hard on this for so long, but we need resources. If we’re going to build affordable housing, if we’re going to sustain affordable housing, it doesn’t just take wishes. It takes dollars,” he said. “At the end of the day. This is both about the funding, the creativity and the determination to pull together a project like this, but also the values that say the folks who live there deserve not just shelter in the storm, but a home in which to build their future, their families and their lives.”

Delaware State Housing Authority Director Eugene Young Jr. noted that quality housing can have a lifelong impact on residents too.

“Oftentimes when we talk about housing, I talk about roots versus routes. Housing is the roots that determine your routes. Having solid housing gives you a sense of family and a sense of community. It predicts the education you receive where you live, the health care you receive to where you are, and it helps further those routes,” he said.

Amid a push to rein in social welfare programs in 1999, the federal Faircloth Amendment capped the number of units that public housing authorities could operate. Since then, the number of public housing units has fallen as the government agencies demolish dilapidated units or renovate them to smaller spaces, exacerbating a nationwide gap of millions of housing units, according to HUD officials.

Matt Heckles HUD

HUD Regional Administrator Matt Heckles | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

“So, we’re pushing public housing authorities to take advantage of underutilized resources and create new housing like we’re doing here,” said Matt Heckles, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development regional administrator for Delaware and a former state housing director.

In 2021, HUB began promoting the Faircloth-to-RAD conversion program, wherein projects could intermingle public and private development funds under its Hope VI program and then convert upon completion to a traditional Section 8 program, where rent is subsidized by the government and therefore a guaranteed income stream.

Sean Kelly

Sean Kelly | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

“This program allows the resource to be specifically targeted at individual buildings, which allows us to layer the other financing such as the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, the cash and other more traditional affordable housing financing,” explained Sean Kelly, vice president at LNWA who is leading the project.

LNWA has developed a reputation for firsts in affordable housing construction and financing, building Delaware’s first integrated community, the first turnkey public housing community, the first new construction Section 8 housing and the first Hope VI housing. Kelly said the firm’s strong partnerships with federal and state officials, and dedication to advancing affordable housing helps it to push the envelope.

“We’re just fortunate enough to be able to build on many generations of understanding these programs in order to be on the leading edge of creating more affordable housing, but this is just a drop in the bucket. We need more and more resources,” he said.

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