Tarrant County agrees to new deal to fund affordable housing proposals

Tarrant County agrees to new deal to fund affordable housing proposals
Tarrant County agrees to new deal to fund affordable housing proposals

Tarrant County’s Commissioners Court voted unanimously to enter into an agreement with the city of Fort Worth and Fort Worth Housing Solutions to help fund an affordable housing project in the Las Vegas Trail area using COVID-19 relief money.

The county and city reached an agreement to partially fund affordable housing projects after the county confirmed last week that it would reconsider its previous financial commitment. The county, originally the sole funder of this 55-unit permanent supportive housing development, will now contribute $8 million instead of the originally planned $11 million.

The project is estimated to cost $11.9 million, $758,000 less than the original price tag after Fort Worth Housing Solutions and Ojala Holdings, the developer, agreed to reduce their fees and contribute funds to the project.

District 4 Commissioner Manny Ramirez said this partnership is a “win-win-win” because of the public-private partnership in the agreement.

“You don’t find that often, where you get buy-in from county stakeholders, city stakeholders, non-profit organizations and private developers. When everyone has skin in the game, it means everyone is going to remain committed to doing more. This is not a one-off project where Tarrant The county is making an investment and turning the other cheek, Ramirez said during the commissioners meeting.

County officials have previously stated that it was outside the norm for the county to fully fund the housing project, called Casa de Suenos, and have since worked with public and private partners to find ways to fund the project.

Fort Worth Housing Solutions President Mary-Margaret Lemons said the scope of the project has not changed despite the reduction in funding from the county.

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There is currently a $1.9 million gap that Fort Worth Housing Solutions and Ojala Holdings are working to close with grants and donations. Lemons said she remains confident Fort Worth Housing Solutions and Ojala Holdings will be able to deliver.

She also thanked the city for stepping up to ensure the project went forward.

– We appreciate that the county and the city have confidence in us with their investments. None of this could happen without the cooperation of our community and the vision of our local leaders,” Lemons said in an email.

Fort Worth Housing Solutions will vote to consider guaranteeing the remaining $1.9 million at its next scheduled board meeting on March 30, 2023, according to the city of Fort Worth.

Casa de Suenos will convert the 83-room Express Inn at 8401 West Freeway (Interstate 30) into 55 units of permanent supportive housing, with some units reserved for victims of domestic violence and those leaving homelessness.

Construction is expected to begin in May 2023 with all units occupied by May 2024.

The city of Fort Worth is hosting a public comment period until April 6 before voting on the proposal. The city will contribute $2 million to the project; $1.5 million will come from a Community Development Block Grant, and $500,000 will come from the Fort Worth Housing Finance Corporation.

Fort Worth city council members discussed the project in a work session Tuesday. Both Mayor Mattie Parker and Councilman Michael Crain, who represents the Las Vegas Trail, celebrated the proposed project. Crain thanked the county for working to keep the project “on track and together.”

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– This has been a lot of work. Thank you to the mayor for stepping up to fight for this project knowing all the work we are putting into the Las Vegas Trail,” Crain said. “It’s just a very important part of the revitalization we’re doing in the area.”

The city began ramping up support for the neighborhood after a 2017 Star-Telegram investigation revealed rising crime and poverty, ignored by city and county leaders for decades. Conditions in the area have steadily improved in the following years.

Sandra Sadek is a member of the Report for America staff, covering growth for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at [email protected]

Rachel Berhrndt is a municipal accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at [email protected]

Emily Wolf is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at [email protected] or via Twitter.

In the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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