ATLANTIC CITY — A WinnDevelopment vice president explained how his company can renovate 153 affordable housing units while families remain living in them, at a public hearing Friday at the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority.
The company has asked for a $4.5 million CRDA loan to help it finance a $42 million purchase and renovation project for three historic buildings converted years ago to affordable housing units.
The apartment buildings are owned by JJJ LLC and used exclusively for federal Housing and Urban Development Section 8 housing.
“We can’t do (an entire apartment) in one day, so we break it up into pieces,” said Senior Vice President Brett Meringoff after his presentation at the hearing.
WinnDevelopment is part of WinnCompanies of Boston, which specializes in affordable or low-income housing redevelopment and adaptive reuse of historic buildings.
The company gives residents advance notice of what day it needs a kitchen or bathroom cleared out, helps with moving items if needed, and then does an entire kitchen or bathroom in one day, Meringoff said.
“They are back in by 5 p.m.,” he said of families. “By breaking it up, we minimize the disruption for residents.”
The company also puts aside vacant units for daytime use by residents who need a place to go, he said.
The buildings — Liberty Apartments at 1519 Baltic Ave.; Disston Apartments at 1711 Arctic Ave.; and School House Apartments at 61 N. Martin Luther King Blvd. — have not been renovated in decades and have been the source of many citizen complaints, according to city officials.
“We knew they were not performing to the standard that HUD would like to see, based on their real estate assessment center scoring,” Meringoff said. “They were not meeting a passing score. So we are drawn to those opportunities.”
He estimated the project will provide $12.5 million in economic impact to the area through wages paid to subcontractors and local spending by construction workers. It will create 74 direct construction jobs, 86 indirect jobs and improve living conditions and supportive services for more than 300 residents, he said.
The hearing was run by CRDA Director of Planning and Development Lance Landgraff, who pointed out that CRDA is only being asked to provide a small portion of the overall funding for the project.
The proposal will come back before the full CRDA board for a vote, probably in February. If all goes well with the CRDA loan and other financing, “we expect to start the rehabilitation in midsummer,” Meringoff said. “We are lining up for July.”
Meringoff said Winn will sign a new 20-year contract to provide Section 8 housing for HUD, and is committing to keeping the units affordable for at least 30 years with a deed restriction with the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency to qualify for federal tax credits.
About 20 percent of a project’s cost generate a federal tax credit sold to a third party investor, he said, to help with financing.
Winn would pay $17 million for the three properties, then spend $15.9 million on direct construction, $4.8 million on soft costs such as engineering and design, and a $3.6 million developer fee, according to Landgraf.
Last year, WinnCompanies purchased and renovated the Bridgeton Villas Apartments, with the promise of preserving them as affordable housing for the next three decades. Meringoff said that project is almost finished.
The company worked with Gateway Community Action Partnership, the city of Bridgeton and the state of New Jersey on the $18.7 million project covering eight buildings and 156 units.
“We are the sixth-largest manager of all apartments in the country, with a portfolio of more than 100,000 units,” Meringoff said.
Seventeen of its apartment communities are in New Jersey, he said, and its total real estate is valued at about $14 billion.
He said the company, founded in 1971, has apartment complexes in 22 states and Washington, D.C.
It also has a large military housing portfolio, managing 44,000 units on bases under contract with the U.S. Department of Defense, he said.
The company recently won an “Outstanding Turnaround of a Troubled Property” award from the National Affordable Housing Management Association for its renovation of Atlantic Apartment Homes in Washington, D.C. It’s a 303-unit low-income apartment complex that is home to 770 people, according to a company new`s release.
That project was a two-year, $69 million acquisition and rehabilitation effort led by Meringoff, according to Winn.
The project modernized all apartment homes, amenities and common areas; introduced new and enhanced social services for residents; and installed the district’s largest community solar project on the rooftops of several buildings, the company said.