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 neighborhood using COVID-19 relief money.
The county and city reached a consensus to partially fund the affordable housing project after the county confirmed last week it would reevaluate its previous monetary commitment. The county, originally the sole funder for this 55-unit permanent supportive housing development, will now contribute $8 million instead of the initially 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.
Precinct 4 Commissioner Manny Ramirez said this partnership is a “win-win-win” because of the public-private partnership of the agreement.
“You don’t find those often, where you get buy-in from county stakeholders, city stakeholders, nonprofits and private developers. When everybody has skin in the game, that means everyone is going to remain committed to doing more. This is not a one-time project where Tarrant County makes an investment and turns the other cheek,” Ramirez said during the commissioners’ meeting.
County officials previously stated it was out of the norm for the county to fully fund the housing project, called Casa de Suenos, and have since been working 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.
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 moved forward.
“We appreciate the county and the city for trusting us with their investments. None of this could happen without the collaboration 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 exiting 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 Fort Worth Housing Finance Corporation.
Fort Worth City Council members discussed the project in a work session Tuesday. Both Mayor Mattie Parker and council member Michael Crain, who represents Las Vegas Trail, celebrated the proposed project. Crain thanked the county for working to keep the project “on track and together.”
“This has been a lot of work. Thank you to the mayor for going to bat for this project knowing all the work that we put into Las Vegas Trail,” Crain said. “It’s just a really important part of revitalization that we’re doing in the area.”
The city began increasing support for the neighborhood after a 2017 Star-Telegram investigation revealed rising crime and poverty, ignored by city and county leaders for decades. The conditions in the area have seen steady improvement in the years since.
Sandra Sadek is a Report for America corps member, covering growth for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at email@example.com.
Rachel Berhrndt is a local government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Emily Wolf is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at email@example.com or via Twitter.
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