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The sustainability in real estate development is fundamental, however, what kind of manner can be ‘sustainable’ in it is more crucial (Kwame, Liow, and Neo, 2009).
In real estate development, this case study has discussed about affordable housing through ten aspects: site, concept, development team, development and approval process, development finance, planning and design, sustainability and healthy living, sales and leasing, management and performance, and observation and lessons learned. Ultimately, notifying some challenges that development might face.
Via Verde is a project from the New York City about regeneration the brownfield in Bronx with 222 units mixed-income affordable housing development for rental and ownership with a healthier lifestyle to address health issues, and leads to a new recycling neighbourhood.
It is a good example in affordable housing which involves both public and private sectors and city agencies who play key roles on approval and financing. In regulatory management, it performs well. Via Verde had components against green regulation of the city, however, city authorities permit amnesty, which conducts feasibility and flexibility of development. In terms of regulation, it was instituted and had no barrier to develop this project.
The decision of planning is through the competition to select the most innovative and creative proposal for the unique site with lots of public and private sectors involved into it in financial, regulatory, planning, material aspects to produce maximum outcome with limited sources.
Via Verde planned to create an innovative, high-quality and sustainable housing for mixed-income family with affordable rental or ownership housing.
It wants to achieve goal about healthy lifestyle to address problems of high rate of asthma and obesity in children in South Bronx area by green roof, open areas and motivated encouragement of outdoor activities, such as, vegetable garden, green club or indoor fitness centre, which providing resident a location or motivation to involve into green programme and rebuild their lifestyle.
Via Verde locates in northeast of Manhattan which is roughly 6.5 miles to the south to midtown Manhattan with fully developed tube and bus system. It sites in the South Bronx, which is one of New York’s boroughs. It is four blocks away from the nearest tube station, and several bus routes nearby, which are easily access by foot or bike. However, the site is a long narrow and 1.5- acre triangle at the corner of a block, it is hard to develop as a massive affordable housing. In terms of educational aspect, there are some schools nearby, and colleges, where are easy to reach. Via Verde locates in a well location with well life functions, one of the largest park in the city, commercial centre on the nearby station.
In 1960s and 70s, the area was suffered by high percentages of crime, especially violence and urban decay with high rates of residents’ outflow. A wave of arson fires had destroyed lots of buildings and left vacant, ultimately, were obtained by the city- public authority. In the late 1980s, communities have started regeneration and rehabilitation in this area with building new housing and improvement of facilities. The population had declined from roughly 1.47 million to 1.17 million and it has rebounded to 1.41 million by 2013. Bronx is known as poverty, the poorest borough in five of New York City. Large amount of working class family here with around $35,000 income, which is lowest in New York City and 28.5% of residents live in poverty. Therefore, Via Verde development has changed the decay of this area in 2009.
The first process-stage of Via Verde project is as an entry in New York Housing competition, which is sponsored by public sectors and non-profit organization- the city of New York Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), the New York city chapter of American Institute of Architects, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and Enterprise Foundation. It was the first competition for affordable housing and sustainable housing in the city. The competition was held in 2006 with some aspects and requirements- provoking innovative design and planning to address the housing production issues, resolving affordability, sustainability, transferability, and viability, illustrating how to lower cost of building, and fostering healthy, affordable with well-designed dwelling. 5 out of 32 teams with developers and architects were selected into the final competition, they were requested to refine the proposal of their design.
Ultimately, a team with two developers and two architects were chosen to build this project with support by the city and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has provided $145,000 for environmental uses and improvement. Private city agencies play a key role as representatives in this project after competition to look after in approvals and financing process, maintaining the quality and the innovative features.
Instead of using their own ideas, local communities also provide their aspects of affordable housing and green design and healthy living components to development team.
The Development Team
The two developers in the team are Phipps Houses and Jonathan Rose Companies. Phipps Houses is one of the oldest developer in New York City, which has developed lots of projects of affordable housing, focusing on human development to foster better residency for community and residents. Jonathan Rose Companies is a national integrated real estate company with investment management, development, project management, and planning, which concentrating on developing resilient communities.
The designers are Dattner Architects and Grimshaw Architects. Dattner specializes in housing and educational, creative and innovative urban design. Contrary, Grimshaw has been worked in Bronx for many years for revitalization, a local firm which may understand the environment and residency better.
This team with two developers and two architects has fully achieved primary conditions of Via Verde project, focusing on green programme, residents, community, affordable housing and localized company.
The Development and Approval Process
The narrow site which belongs to the city was hard to develop, additionally, the project required unusual approvals for developing, planning and environmental remediation. The city agencies who had responsibility to check the process, in terms of the unique features, it is fundamental for the project to have city agencies shepherd it.
This project was supported by the city authority, which is easier for unique development like Via Verde, especially in regulation. The massive development with 222 units wasn’t allowed to build in this narrow site, which needed amnesty for it. The development team coped with authorities and solved the problems together, conducting the feasibility of this project. It had more flexible process in the development than others.
However, there was parking issue, normally, the residential development is required to build with parking lot, the site of Via Verde was too small for such huge amounts of residents. Nevertheless, the development team has successfully argued about it with the location where is easy to access public transportation, including tube and buses, additionally, there is a huge parking garage nearby. Eventually, the project is accepted without parking in Via Verde.
The community from this area had proposed their desire to the development team, they were looking forward to addressing issues of Bronx through Via Verde project. They wish to have affordable housing with for-sale component and resolving the health issues in high rate of childhood asthma.
Paul Freitag, managing director of Jonatha Rose Companies, which is one developer of the Via Verde project, asserts that development of affordable housing is difficult and complex from different aspects, such as, financing, and planning.
However, this project has supported by several different resources, such as, grants, loans, tax, credits, and other funding mechanisms from 19 public, private and non-profit authorities and organizations.
Fortunately, the development team obtained the site for $1 from NYC Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) to support affordable housing. The development of Via Verde had arranged with $98.8 million, which were divided into co-op and rental parts, roughly $32 million was arranged to build 71 units of co-op housing for middle-class family, and there was taxable bonds from the New York City Housing Development Corporation (HDC) with floated rate during construction from JP Morgan Chase line of credit, and supporting by HDC, HPD, the borough president’s office, the New York City Council, the New York State Affordable Housing Corporation and NYSERDA. The $66.6 million was assigned for the rest 151 units of rental which were for low-class family, and taxable bonds from HDC with same condition for co-op, 9% federal low-income housing tax credits (LIHTCs) from New York State Homes and Community Renewal and HPD, supporting by HDC, the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York Affordable Housing Programme, and NYSERDA.
Eventually, the project exceeded 10% more in cost than expected, mostly used for green features in brownfield remediation, due to poor geographical conditions.
Planning and Design
The goals of this project are healthier lifestyle and sustainable housing for range incomes households through numerous outdoor activities, good views, and lots of experiences which residents may never had. Three buildings built with good view and facing south, which is better absorbing solar energy. Not only the solar panels on the roof, but also green roof with vegetable and fruit garden provides residents plant and social. Via Verde is designed for rental and ownership, and there is no barrier between them.
The developers planned to build a completely new form of affordable housing, instead of red bricks in the past, they selected prefabricated panels with colourful design, which are localized manufacture. Besides, windows are large and operable for good ventilation indoor. Surprisingly, they utilized waterproof layer from localized company with official certificated by LEED programme.
From the green rood, windows, air ventilation, waterproof layer, these designs are toward to create a sustainable and healthy residency.
Sustainability and Healthy Living
The green roof of Via Verde provides not only a place to plant, but also to exercise. Besides, outdoor activities area, there is also an indoor fitness with variety of classes for residents.
The design is sufficiently for environmental sustainability on saving energy and cost by using and doing recycling, such as, trash recycle, rainwater recycle system, solar energy system, material choosing, and encourage residents take stairs instead of lifts.
From the beginning, the main goal of development is to address health issues in this area. The location provides good motivation for residents to walk more, with tube, school and green parks nearby, which may help to improve it. Additionally, medical centre and pharmacy are located in the ground floor.
Sales and Leasing
The 151 units of rental are 30 years leasing, earning 40-60 % of area median income, on the other hand, 71 units of co-ops are earning 70-100 %.
Management and Performance
Via Verde provides variety of activities to motivate residents in healthy lifestyle, such as, vegetable garden where they can grow natural vegetable and fruit and cheaper price of organic food for them, exercises club to encourage them. In the garden club, which is supported and educated by non-profit organization-Grow NYC in sustainable and professional manners. Community gardens, environmental education and recycling programme, these are associating with neighbourhoods to support and modify residents into healthier lifestyle.
Via Verde has established a wide range classes community, they are equal, having no barrier, all residents can entrance any common areas or use common facilities. Owners and renters can be member of garden club. There are social events to increase relationship between residents and emphasize the goals of Via Verde. Such as, volunteering to involve community’s events. Annual newsletter provides communication between residents and management, residents are able to transmit their thoughts directly. When the conflicts happen, staff can conclude it instantaneously, which build communication between either residents or management with anytime concierge allowing residents to question or discuss about their considerations and problems.
Unlike accustomed affordable housing which normally leads to disappointed and seldom be materialized, Via Verde has evolved into completely new kind of affordable housing with variety of services and events, free dry cleaning for residents fully reserves the expectation of affordable housing.
Observation and lessons learned
Via Verde has successfully become model of affordable housing development with financial feasibility, and critical acclaim around the USA. Traditionally, there are three forms of affordable housing, developers prefer low-rise, mid-rise is more common, contrary, high-rise is usually seen as faulty for affordable housing from past experiences, especially in huge public projects. However, Via Verde with high-rise component reverses it. With these conditions, Via Verde explosively attracts people, it was designed as rental units, surprisingly, people intend to buy them.
Via Verde project wants to build a healthy lifestyle with mixed-income level community in order to address and revitalize poverty issue around South Bronx, resolving problems of health, and more sustainable and vigorous. As a model of affordable housing, Via Verde truly presents and illustrates the cooperation and collaboration between public and private sectors.
However, there were difficulties in this development, residents are lack of knowledge in green notion, which is hard for them to adapt into recycling concept.
The success of Via Verde is extraordinary, which leads impression changes in affordable housing. Real estate development has stridden forward to another level with higher quality, more comfortable design and planning of affordable housing.
This is a massive project with huge number of units and unique requirements. It is difficult for developers to build 222 units into a narrow, triangle brownfield, which needs innovative and creative ideas to achieve.
The model which includes all information has proved the feasibility of the development with acceptable financing and flexible development team and authorities.
The aims are healthier lifestyle through recycling and more exercises and organic vegetable or fruit. However, difficulties are lack of knowledge in green lifestyle, and adapting into rules.
Via Verde received lots of resources from public and private authorities. In order to replicate the same success from Via Verde, others need to consider about sources which may not be same as them.
The model of Via Verde development clear in information, however, it is ambiguous about difficulties, and how they convinced funding and planning and decision making.
Real estate development is a wide and comprehensive scenario, which involves different kind of people, such as, developers, architects, agents, planners, government, and engineers to frame and accomplish.
In this case study of affordable housing, stakeholders are mostly pubic authorities, they did not have significant problems. Except zoning issue that size of site didn’t conform to the regular regulation, however, authority has given amnesty permission for it, additionally, parking issue, the flexibility of development has successfully coped with it.
Once development is facing some issues, public and private sectors will need to figure out and adapt to solutions, and it would sufficiently prove the feasibility of development. The sustainability of development with persistent encouragement and learning is fundamental.
Affordable housing isn’t always like what we expect, it can be completely different and well with good development. This case study demonstrates how real estate development brings a long-term and sustainable notion into affordable housing through wide range of consideration.
Kwame, A. D., Liow, K. H., Neo, Y. S., 2009. Sustainability of Sustainable Real Property Development. Sustainable Real Estate, [e-journal] 1(1). 203-225. Available through: University College London Library website <http://www.ucl.ac.uk/library> [Accessed 18 December 2016].
ULI, 2014. ULI Case Studies-Via Verde. [online] Available at: <http://casestudies.uli.org/via-verde/#top> [Accessed 20 December 2016].
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