Incorporated in 2017, the mission of the Rowlett Housing Finance Corporation (HFC) has been to “provide the opportunity for safe, affordable housing as a foundation for a meaningful life.”
While many may think that Rowlett is an affluent community and does not have a need for housing that is considered “affordable,” the housing industry as a whole is showing us that is not necessarily the case. According to a recent Reuters poll, U.S. house prices are going to rise at twice the speed of inflation and pay. Annual average earnings growth has remained below 3 percent even as house prices have increased an average of over 5 percent for the last few years. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), for a home to be considered affordable, a household should spend no more than 30 percent of their gross income on mortgage/rent. As an example, a family with an annual salary of $60,000 should spend no more than $1,500 per month on housing. However, service industry workers typically don’t make that much; neither do seniors on a fixed income. How can they find housing they can afford and not have to move to areas outside the city?
The HFC essentially functions as a real estate finance and development corporation to provide affordable multifamily and single-family living. The Corporation is managed by its Board of Directors, comprised of five volunteer residents of Rowlett appointed by the City Council. The Board offers strategic guidance and vision for the HFC, while daily operations are carried out by the Executive Director of the Corporation, Rick Sheffield, who was appointed by the Board in January 2019.
The programs offered by the HFC are designed to increase affordable housing opportunities while strengthening Rowlett’s economic base. On Dec. 5, 2018 the Rowlett HFC broke ground on Lakeview Pointe, a 272-unit affordable active-senior living development estimated to start leasing in late 2019. The HFC has teamed with RISE Construction to utilize housing tax credits, along with private activity bonds to develop the property. The targeted rents are roughly 60 percent of the area median income for Rowlett. However, this only addresses a small percentage of the need for senior housing in the community. The HFC continues to reach out to the development community to partner for additional senior housing, as well as housing for the middle class, referred to as “workforce housing.”
In addition to developing properties, the HFC provides other programs to assist people in achieving the dream of home ownership. They have partnered with TRIO out of Bellevue, Washington, to provide a financing alternative for people to achieve the dream. Working jointly with the HFC, TRIO provides homeownership financing through a lease-to-own program where people can choose their own home, build equity by making on-time lease payments for a specified period of time (typically 2-3 years), and then purchase their home at an option price that had been preestablished at the time they moved in. This gives them time to save funds for down payment and closing costs, repair any credit issues, and gain equity from the home value appreciation. There are no income limits with this statewide offered program and may help those who aren’t otherwise presently able to qualify for a mortgage. The HFC also offers down payment assistance to those that need it in the form of grants which do not have to be paid back by the new home owner.
“Our efforts are ongoing,” Sheffield says. “We’re also partnering with Habitat for Humanity to do a veterans’ build. They can take an acre or 2 and build up to 10 homes and a community center specifically for veterans.