Why this Houston apartment complex has a six-month waiting list

Houston Business Journal, October 14, 2015                                

There’s an apartment complex near downtown Houston that has a waiting list of three to six months.

No, it’s not a new luxury apartment with a resort-style pool in Midtown. Avenue Terrace is actually a mixed-income apartment community that breaks the mold of “affordable housing.”

Avenue Terrace features all the accoutrements of modern apartment living. Its 144 units feature open kitchen floor plans, balconies and large walk-in closets. The community offers a gym, a pool and splash pad as well as a large community room where residents can take classes on cooking and homeownership.

As city leaders wring their hands over the rising cost of housing in Houston, Avenue Community Development Corp. — known as Avenue CDC — is pioneering the use of mixed-use apartments and affordable homes in Houston’s Near Northside neighborhood, a predominantly Hispanic, working-class neighborhood just north of downtown Houston.

The nonprofit Houston developer opened Avenue Terrace in 2011 to attract residents who increasingly cannot afford the city’s skyrocketing apartment rents, but want to live close to the urban core in a modern apartment.

There’s high demand for these kinds of affordable apartments inside the city. Avenue Terrace is currently 100 percent occupied and has a waiting list between three and six months long, depending on the unit size.

“We’re trying to create a stable rental option for people looking for a clean, safe and attractive apartment,” said Kara Niles, Avenue CDC's director of fund development and communication.

The vast majority of Avenue Terrace units — 85 percent — are subsidized apartments set aside for low-income renters. The complex relies on some residents who can afford to pay market price rents to help subsidize the affordable units.

For example, a two-bedroom, two-bathroom unit at Avenue Terrace typically rents for $1,122 per month. However, depending on one’s income, low-income renters can pay anywhere from $872 a month to as low as $343 per month in rent.

Other developers are also getting into the mixed-income housing market. For example, Lee Zieben of the Zieben Group is building a four-story, 350-unit workforce apartment complex called Residences at Hardy Yards on a 45-acre former railyard site just north of downtown Houston. The project, funded in part by a $14.5 million investment from the city of Houston through a federal hurricane relief fund, will offer half of the units at market rate and the remainder of the units targeting renters with annual incomes ranging between $35,000 and $45,000.

Avenue CDC also is under construction on 95 homes in Avenue Place, next door to Avenue Terrace. The three- and four-bedroom homes are priced from $194,000 to $254,000 — lower than Houston’s average home price of $282,233. The developer also plans to build another 48 apartment units on the 20-acre site, which was formerly a FedEx truck depot.

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