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Transforming Lives with Safe, Affordable Housing
August 4, 2017
Obery Court, part of one of the first public housing developments in the country, has a new lease on life. So do the residents of the newly constructed townhouses built on the site in Annapolis, Maryland, thanks to a partnership between the Pennrose development firm and Capital One.
Pennrose has been building affordable housing throughout the United States since 1971. When the company sought to transform Obery Court it needed a bank that could do more than simply provide financing. It required a partner that understood the project from both a business standpoint and from a community standpoint—one that recognized its significance and complexities, and that would help see it through. It made sense to go with a bank that had delivered in the past.
“We’ve done so many deals with Capital One Community Finance, that it’s just a very easy process to go through,” explains Ivy Dench-Carter, Regional Vice President at Pennrose. “I can’t think of a better adjective than ‘easy.’ It’s very a good relationship. They know us; they know our business.”
Capital One was eager to participate, knowing this relationship would help people obtain safe, affordable housing at a time when housing costs are on the rise across the county. Capital One provided an $8.6 million Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) equity investment and a $3 million construction loan for Phase II and a $9 million LIHTC equity investment, a $3.5 million construction loan and a $1.4 million permanent loan for Phase III for a total of 124 affordable units.
Once funding was secured, Pennrose reached out to the community to gain support. “The residents wanted us to rehab the original units because of their historical significance,” Ivy says. However, Pennrose was concerned that a rehab would not deliver the upgrades needed to make the development a success. Instead, the company showed residents what an actual rehabbed unit would look like, compared to the potential of a rebuilt unit. “Based on that exercise we got one hundred percent support to tear it down and build new,” Ivy says. “What we did is actually keep as much of the original footprints of the buildings as possible. We really tried to keep the flavor of the old buildings and keep the historical charm that was there.”
A stable home helps resident build a new life
Mike Somerville, a 44-year old electrician, knows the development well. “I saw these places before they were remodeled. It was terrible. I hung out here when I was a young man,” he explained, alluding to a turbulent period he went through when younger. In fact, Mike still carries with him a bullet in his back from when he was shot at 18 years old. “It was close to my spinal cord, but it's still in there.”
Having experienced ups and downs in life, Mike trained to work as an electrician. He put himself on a waiting list to get into the new Obery Court, a place that he’d seen completely reborn from when he was a young man in the streets. Now, as a new Obery Court resident, he went from sleeping in a rented bedroom with his son, to having a brand-new townhouse that he calls “beautiful.” It has two bedrooms, a half bath downstairs, a full bath upstairs, and a spacious kitchen, where he and his son can cook. Which, as it turns out, is a deeply important part of the Somerville family. “It’s in our blood, man! ...My mom, she cooks, my sisters, too.”
He talks about the special family recipes that have been passed down. “My mom showed us how to make these stuffed shrimp and stuffed fish. Stuff ‘em with crabmeat,” he says. “And then there’s macaroni and cheese. And people love her potato salad.” It’s no surprise that Mike Jr. not only goes to vocational school for cooking, but that’s what he’ll be doing in the Army – he’s already enlisted.
Mike’s appreciation extends beyond his own unit; it’s for the entire Obery Court and College Creek community. “The neighborhood is so quiet and peaceful. Our neighbors’ kids are out here playing, that’s the extent of the noise,” he explains. “I love it here. I don’t have any issues. I have very friendly neighbors. We talk every day. We speak. When it snows, we shovel each other out. You don’t have to worry about neighbors taking your parking spaces.
“It’s been a blessing to think of where we came from, to where we are now,” he adds.