A recent photo of the Harmony on Santa Barbara construction site. SOURCE: McDowell Housing Partners
LIHTC is in its most basic essence a meeting of the public and private sectors. To bridge the housing needs gap, the federal government incentivizes investors and developers to create affordable housing by awarding tax credits. However, in practice, this is sometimes where the collaboration between public and private interests begins and ends. And while high-quality properties are created through this model, it is often the developments that draw heavily from a cooperative relationship between local government and developers. By communicating community needs directly from those who understand it the most, affordable housing developments are uniquely equipped to serve the specific locality in which they are built.
This private-public relationship is essential to the story of Harmony on Santa Barbara, which is currently being built in Naples, Collier County, Florida by Miami-based developer McDowell Housing Partners. Harmony on Santa Barbara fits neatly into an area in great need of affordable housing solutions – it also acts as a transformative development which has been designed with community growth in mind. In addition to the creation of 82 affordable homes, the development will also feature a community building complete with a business center, fully equipped fitness center, multipurpose community room and veranda overlooking the hardscaped pool deck with covered outdoor BBQs and playgrounds. Furthermore, residents of Harmony will have access to services which will include educational opportunities and health and wellness programs. All of these features amount to something much more than just an apartment; the finished product will provide an environment which is designed to support and improve the quality of life and well-being of its residents.
Collier County is one of the wealthiest zip codes in the country, Chris Shear, COO at McDowell, stated that a multitude of factors, including high land cost, limited zoning, tight construction and labor markets, and NIMBYism have long prevented affordable housing communities of this kind from being developed in Naples. After years of determination, Harmony is finally changing that, largely due to the progressive actions of County Commission and staff.
“It’s encouraging to see local governments actively looking for meaningful and practical ways, such as public/private partnership we executed on The Harmony, to expedite and incentivize new workforce and affordable housing developments,” said Shear. “Collier County had the intuition and foresight to see that an underutilized piece of land in front of Calusa elementary school would make an excellent location for working families, and they moved swiftly to deliver results. The Harmony on Santa Barbara is a perfect example of what public/private partnerships can do to provide high quality affordable housing options in challenging markets.”
Collier County aimed to create new workforce housing as a means of accommodating and supporting essential workers who keep their community running but were quickly being priced out of the market. They opened up an RFP process in late 2019, with McDowell being selected from a competitive field of 10 respondents to develop the 3.78-acre county owned parcel. McDowell entered a 99-year land lease with the County where they committed to develop the property for families earning at or under 80% of the County’s area median income, amongst several other design and operational commitments that specifically fulfilled the municipalities needs and desires.
McDowell, who is one of Florida’s most productive workforce/affordable housing developers quickly secured competitive gap financing and housing tax credits from Florida Housing Finance Corporation that were essential to sufficiently source $25.4 million development.
CREA’s Mike Boyle, SVP, Acquisitions has seen firsthand the time and effort that has been put into making an affordable development in the affluent Naples market. For many years, it was a running conversation for Boyle and Shear that such a housing development would be near impossible to bring to fruition in the area. Some have been steadfast in their opposition to new developments in the area for years, something that the local Naples Daily News noted in their article, “Got Nimby?” in 2006. The article quotes the then-president of Habitat for Humanity of Collier County as saying, “NIMBY (Not In My Backyard)-ism […] is keeping Collier County from resolving an affordable housing crisis.”
There are, of course, various reasons why certain developments may not suit the needs or lifestyles of those who call the community home. The Daily News’ article mentions concerns surrounding increased traffic, impacts on golf course land and the effects on local schools as some factors why locals are wary of development in their neighborhoods, among other reasons. However, it seems that affordable housing developments have routinely fallen victim to these disagreements in Collier County. Thankfully, as The Harmony proves, the pitfalls of this clash of interests can be minimized or entirely avoided by working in tandem with local governments who understand the holistic needs of a community. Successfully navigating this frequently difficult dynamic is a worthwhile endeavor if it results in the creation of quality affordable housing.
“The process of creating low-income housing is always one of collaboration, but the Harmony exemplifies the public-private partnership that so often creates transformative developments,” Boyle said. “I’m very proud that CREA and McDowell were able to pull together a deal in Collier County despite some roadblocks over the years. I believe this community will change the lives of those who call it home, giving dozens of families the promise of new and exciting opportunities.”
CREA is proud to continue their relationship with McDowell Housing Partners for this significant development, and we are honored to have played a role in securing its creation. We extend thanks to Huntington Bank, whose continued investments in community development have made the Harmony and many other affordable housing properties across the country possible.
“Huntington Bank is proud to be a capital partner in delivering quality affordable housing through the development of Harmony on Santa Barbara,” said Jim Rose, CDLI Equity Investment Manager, Huntington National Bank. “As a bank, we are committed to making meaningful impact in the communities we serve.”
Financial Support & Partnership: In addition to $9.4MM in low-income tax credit (LIHTC) equity provided through City Huntington Tax Credit Fund II, LLC, Harmony on Santa Barbara will be financed via a $12.5/7.9MM conversion loan from KeyBank and a $7.8MM Community Development Block Grant loan from Florida Housing Finance Corporation.