Realty News Report, February 28, 2022
HOUSTON – (By Dale King, Realty News Report) – JPMorgan Chase & Co. has just pumped another million dollars into the Houston nonprofit dedicated to building affordable homes and strengthening communities in the Bayou City.
The bank’s contribution to Avenue will support a program the organization developed just a year ago.
JPMorgan Chase Gives $1 Million
Avenue’s Social Impact Fund – recipient of Chase & Co.’s cash — “aims at acquiring and preserving naturally occurring affordable housing (NOAH) in Houston,” said Mary Lawler, Avenue’s chief executive officer. “The fund was established in 2021 to maintain the affordability of rental properties at a time when working families are increasingly burdened by rising housing costs.”
“By adding naturally occurring affordable housing to our existing portfolio, we are helping prevent the displacement of low-income households, which often includes individuals of color, elderly and/or people living with disabilities,” she added.
“Protecting residents from displacement makes communities stronger by helping families maintain their social networks and stay closer to employment opportunities, while also allowing seniors to age in place.”
The investment from Chase will allow the non-profit to purchase properties from apartment owners in Houston interested in selling their assets to a responsible new possessor that will preserve their affordability for long-term tenants.
“We are incredibly grateful that JPMorgan Chase has supported Avenue for the past 22 years,” said Lawler. “This backing has funded programs and general operations, as well as sponsorships for our annual fundraising event, Art on the Avenue.”
To date, Avenue has acquired three NOAH properties: La Casita Homes, an 84-unit apartment community offering affordable one and two-bedroom living in Houston’s Eastex Jensen neighborhood; Gale Winds, an 18-unit multifamily property in Houston’s Near Northside and Las Brisas, a 68-unit development in the greater Heights. Additional properties are in the acquisition pipeline, Lawler said.
For more than 30 years, Avenue has been managing problems of finding and maintaining residences that folks of low- and moderate means can afford.
“Houston’s shortage of affordable housing was a critical issue before Hurricane Harvey, which exacerbated the problem and revealed the urgency of the crisis,” Lawler said.
The Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University reported that, prior to Hurricane Harvey, nearly 190,000 households in Houston were experiencing severe housing problems, spending more than half of their income on putting a roof over their heads and/or living in substandard housing conditions.
“Compounding the sheer lack of affordable housing units to meet the need is the fact that wages are stagnant or decreasing for many while rent and home prices continue to rise.”
Between 2010 and 2017, median gross rent in Harris County increased 21 percent while the number of cost-burdened renters—those spending more than 30 percent of total income on home-related expenses — remained about 46 percent. Nearly a fourth of Houston renters pay 50 percent or more of their income on rent, she said.
In addition, the Kinder Institute’s analysis revealed that Harris County and urban metros across the country are struggling with a shrinking supply of affordable and subsidized homes.
Unlike other major metropolitan areas, she said, diminishing NOAH stock is amplified in Houston, where the market-driven approach to housing and land-use planning has resulted in a lower share of housing stock that relies on public subsidies.
Avenue’s Social Impact Fund is supported through a mix of public and private funding, including charitable contributions from JPMorgan Chase, CenterPoint Energy, The Cullen Foundation, MUFG Union Bank and NeighborWorks America.
“Currently, we aim to acquire an initial 230-310 rental units in Greater Houston, which will help reduce displacement and enable tenants to remain in stable properties that are well-managed and maintained,” said Lawler.
“For too long, low- and middle-income households have been left behind amid the rising cost of living, especially housing. JPMorgan Chase is supporting Avenue’s Social Impact Fund to address this problem by preserving affordable living and creating better futures for local families,” said Dorian Cockrell, vice president of global philanthropy for JPMorgan Chase.
Lawler noted that the “critical need for investment in naturally occurring affordable housing is evident in United Way of Great Houston’s latest ALICE report, which found that, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 47 percent of Greater Houston area families struggled to make ends meet. That included 33 percent of the nearly 1.6 million households in Harris County that qualify as ALICE — Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained, Employed.
ALICE households represent working families in Houston whose household income is above the federal poverty level, but insufficient to cover necessities such as housing, childcare, food, transportation and healthcare.
During the past 30 years, Avenue has helped revitalize Houston neighborhoods by leveraging more than $125 million in investments for developments, including 225 single-family homes, 800 rental units and more than 200,000 SF of commercial space.
“Properties like our new headquarters, Avenue Center, also offer significant benefit to the surrounding community,” Lawler said. “Completed in 2021, Avenue Center is not only home to Avenue’s corporate office, it also includes a YMCA Children’s Academy that addressed the shortage of early childhood education capacity in the Near Northside community.”
“We also look forward to welcoming a Legacy Community Health clinic to the property, coming in 2022, to improve healthcare access for working families in Near Northside. Creating healthier communities starts with healthier families and that is not possible without adequate access to quality affordable healthcare.”
The charity also develops homes for purchase and rent and provides homebuyer education and counseling to help working families buy and maintain their own homes. It promotes economic development and offers support services such as computer labs, after-school programs, nutrition, fitness and financial literacy classes.