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Durham County

Downtown Durham affordable housing project gets tax credits, and a new name

More than 80 lower-income people will be able to live affordably in new downtown apartments now that the city has enough money to start building them.

Construction will begin next summer on the Jackson/Pettigrew Street mixed-use, affordable-housing development. There will be 82 one- and two-bedroom apartments available for people who earn 60 percent or less of the area median income, or AMI. A two-person household in Durham at 60 percent of the AMI has an annual income of $32,400. (The median household income in Durham is $54,093.)

The project, now known as Willard Street Apartments, hinged on the city getting a 9 percent low-income housing tax credit. City Council member Charlie Reece announced on his official Facebook page Thursday night that the city received the tax credit. The city’s community development department confirmed it Friday.

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The tax credit is expected to create $9 million worth of equity toward the total development cost of roughly $17 million, according to a city news release. The city will spend $3.6 million.

In March, Duke University and the A.J. Fletcher Foundation committed to providing a $2.5 to $3 million grant toward the project as well, which could add more residential units instead of retail in a second phase.

As downtown grows, community leaders have called for keeping it affordable to those below the area median income. Durham Congregations, Associations and Neighborhoods (CAN) and the Coalition for Affordable Housing and Transit both supported putting affordable housing on the city-owned land in walking distance of public transit: both the bus station and a planned light rail stop.

A rendering of what the Willard Street side of the Jackson/Pettigrew Street affordable housing project will look like in downtown Durham. city of Durham

Self-Help Ventures Fund and DHIC are the nonprofit development partners with the city. Getting the tax credit “is an incredibly important milestone for this project and ensures that the development will move forward,” Reece wrote.

In North Carolina, the tax credits are given via the N.C. Housing Finance Agency. A city Durham’s size typically receives just one such tax credit per year. City leaders have said they want to apply next time for a tax credit for Durham Housing Authority mixed use projects.

The Jackson-Pettigrew project was planned when former Mayor Bill Bell was in office. The council approved preliminary plans last fall, then submitted its application for the tax credit in January.

“We’ve always got to build for the future and get the most out of that property that we can,” Bell said in October, when the council approved the plan. “This is an investment in downtown. It’s a different type of investment, but it’s an investment in downtown which I support.”

There will be 39 one-bedroom apartments and 43 two-bedroom apartments. There will also be office and retail space as well as a parking structure. Plans also call for a playground, trees and elevated plaza. Retail will be on the ground floor on the Willard Street side of the buildings.

What’s next

Construction will begin in early 2019 and should be finished by December 2020.

Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: 919-419-6563, @dawnbvaughan
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