BRAD BERTON Staff Reporter
After a dozen years of planning, construction is set to begin this month on an $80 million affordable housing community transforming an aging government-built project into 624 new homes.
The Harbor City district’s Harbor Village development combines affordable rental units with identical for-sale homes and also mixes attached apartments and condominium units with detached single-family houses.
It also teams a vast roster of public, private and quasi-public entities including the residents themselves joined through a sophisticated set of financial and participatory relationships.
Harbor Village’s developers and investors, led by Related Cos. of California and builder Kathryn Thompson, certainly had an incentive a cool $25 million in affordable housing tax credits, an amount developers believe is a record for a California affordable housing project.
“This is a very cutting edge deal, the first of its kind for the L.A. area,” said Charles Loveman, a veteran affordable housing development/finance specialist who consulted the City of Los Angeles Housing Authority on Normont Terrace redevelopment prospects back in the late-1980s.
“There are only a few projects around the U.S. that mix affordable units with ‘market’ units and even fewer that mix affordable rentals with market for-sale product,” said Loveman, principal of Landmark Partners real estate consultant/development firm.
Harbor Village is being built on the site of Normont Terrace, a 35-acre housing development at Pacific Coast Highway and Vermont Avenue.
Normont Terrace was built to house Navy personnel during World War II. But the project originally intended as temporary military housing had become a run-down public housing project owned by the City of Los Angeles’ Housing Authority by the time a residents’ council began discussing possible improvement programs in 1985.
Stella Jurado, interim executive director of the Normont Terrace Coordinating Council, said residents faced termites, poor plumbing and wiring, lead-based paint and other problems.
The tenant group sought out “a developer with vision” a “willing victim,” Jurado quipped who would work with the residents on the redevelopment plan now nearing completion.
When the old housing project was demolished, some 120 former Normont Terrace households accepted one-time cash payments of $5,000 in lieu of relocation expenses with more than a third of them using the proceeds to buy homes of their own, said Thompson, who heads two building companies bearing her name that are partners in Harbor Village.
The families that occupied the remaining 280 of Normont Terrace’s 400 units have been relocated temporarily, and will have first crack at Harbor Village’s 400 affordable rental units under the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Section 8 program.
More importantly, Harbor Village’s future renters are participating in the rental portion’s development through the non-profit entity Normont Terrace Coordinating Council.
“This project wouldn’t have happened without the dedication of this community; you can’t just impose it on the residents,” Thompson said.
The coordinating council has an option to purchase the 400-unit affordable portion of the project after 15 years, noted Jurado a single mother of five who is no longer on the Section 8 roles and hopes to buy one of Harbor Village’s for-sale homes.
The gated Harbor Village will feature a main recreation center with an Olympic-size pool as well as other recreation and youth facilities and picnic areas interspersed among its various neighborhoods.
“It will be a very non-traditional style of affordable housing; you really won’t be able to distinguish it from your typical Orange County master-planned community,” said Thompson. “In fact, I’ve used almost the same plans in Orange County.”
The California affiliate of New York-based Related Cos. is the general partner of Harbor Village’s “master developer.” Related Cos. is the nation’s biggest developer and syndicator of low-income, tax-credit assisted housing.
Harbor Village’s affordable rental component received $25 million in tax credit allocations through which Related’s co-investors primarily Fortune 500 companies earn credits against income taxes for investing in affordable housing.
Thompson’s K. Thompson Homes Inc. is teaming up with CalPERS-adviser Institutional Housing Partners and Laing Homes to develop and sell the for-sale units.
Thompson’s Kathryn G. Thompson Construction is teaming with Hensel Phelps Construction to handle construction of the entire development. Union Labor Life Insurance Co.’s financial commitment mandates that the builders utilize union labor.
“It’s one of the most complex developments I’ve ever been involved in during my 30 years in the business and everyone is anxious to see the end product after all the time spent on the entitlements and financing,” said Thompson.
“But it’s also the most gratifying. The tenants have remained very much involved, and they’ve been wonderful.”