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New community meets vital need in eastern NC

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NOV. 17, 2010 – It can be difficult to provide a sufficient amount of affordable housing in communities surrounding military bases. It can be even more difficult when the base is located near the coast, where property values are especially high.

This is the challenge facing East Carolina Community Development, Inc. (ECCDI) in Beaufort and its surrounding communities. In Jacksonville, where ECCDI has recently completed an 80-unit multi-family affordable rental community called Meadow’s Gate Apartments, the demand for housing is so high that families which need affordable housing are left with little to choose from. 

Affordable housing is particularly vital in towns and cities along the coastal plain, according to Keith Walker, President and CEO of ECCDI. “Land is so expensive, that – even from an economic standpoint – if you don’t have some sort of mezzanine financing structure, or some sort of affordable component to it, it just won’t be built,” said Walker.

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ECCDI is no stranger to building affordable rental properties. They have completed six multi-family housing communities and eight senior housing communities in eastern North Carolina. Their success with tax credit developments has made them the developer of choice in communities like Jacksonville, but because of the struggling economy, the Meadow’s Gate project was on hold for a year while ECCDI worked to get the financing in order.

The answer came in the form of Tax Credit Exchange Program grants, funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The NC Housing Finance Agency provided grant dollars in exchange for the $5 million in tax credits that ECCDI had been unable to use the previous year. The remaining $2.5 million came from conventional loans with Coastal Bank and Trust in Jacksonville and the Community Investment Corporation of the Carolinas, an affordable housing loan consortium.

The property is already fully occupied, with a waiting list of about 100 people. “It’s two bedrooms and three bedrooms,” said Walker. “It’s a static plan that we’ve used many times in eastern North Carolina, but every year we make it a little bit better.” Meadow’s Gate is different from previous ECCDI developments because of the increased amount of brick on the exterior of the buildings, and all of the ground floor units are handicapped accessible.

DSC_0939The monthly rent is adjustable based on income, for people between 30% and 60% of the area median income. “It equates to a rent of about $560, where the market could be as high as $1200,” said Walker.

Up next for ECCDI is Glenstal, a 56-unit senior housing  development located on land adjacent to Meadow’s Gate. ECCDI designed their senior living properties in a pinwheel design, so that each unit has its own front door, after visiting local senior centers and talking to the residents about potential designs. “As soon as we build them, they get leased,” said Walker. He sees senior housing as a sustaining market because of “the graying of America, and the need for having their own units.”

Meadow’s Gate Apartments celebrated its ribbon cutting and grand opening on November 15, with a ceremony and a barbecue lunch.