On Oct. 26, 1986, President Ronald Reagan signed legislation that created the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program, designed to encourage the construction and preservation of affordable rental housing for working families. After 25 years, the tax credit program is considered the “most successful rental housing program in history with over 2.4 million units of affordable, quality apartments constructed and preserved in rural, suburban, and urban areas across the country,” according to the National Council of State Housing Agencies. See NCSHA’s blog post celebrating the housing tax credit program’s 25th anniversary.
DHCD asked Enterprise Homes, one of its significant partners in the preservation and production of affordable rental housing, to talk about what the housing tax program has meant in Maryland. They responded by focusing on a single family to illustrate how the program helps provide safe, affordable housing for communities throughout the state.
Here’s Enterprise’s account:
A Life of Blessing
“The more you help others, the more you will be blessed,” says Estella Hamiel, as she reflects on her life and the past 21 years she has lived at the Sierra Woods Apartments, located in the Village of Long Reach in Columbia, MD.
A 65 year-old mother and grandmother to two sons, one daughter and nine grandchildren, Ms. Hamiel is no stranger to hard work. She started her first job at the age of 13, babysitting for family friends and later working at the local dry cleaners in Columbus, GA. After her family moved to Washington, D.C., she worked as a medical assistant and a layaway clerk at K-Mart, before she became a plan administrator at Employer’s Security, Inc., where she still works today. Even as a single mother, she always made a point to lend a helping hand to her neighbors. Whether it was providing groceries to families in need or checking on a neighbor who was under the weather, Ms. Hamiel has always been there for her family and friends.
In 1990, Ms. Hamiel was raising her children in Washington when her job was relocated to Columbia, MD. Knowing little about the city of Columbia, and that she would need to find an affordable place to live, the wife of her manager agreed to help, and in her search found Sierra Woods Apartments. Ms. Hamiel welcomed the change of a new community and so did her children. They have lived at Sierra Woods ever since.
“As soon as we settled into our apartment, I knew I had made the right choice. Not only could I afford the rent, but the schools in the area provided my children a great education and the community was so peaceful,” said Ms. Hamiel.
Starting in November 2009, Enterprise Homes redeveloped the Sierra Woods property with financing from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, Enterprise Community Investment, Enterprise Green Communities, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The DHCD project financing, included Low Income Housing Tax Credits, Tax Credit Assistance Program and Multifamily Energy Efficiency and Housing Affordability Program funds. Funding was used to begin a major renovation of 158 units, including apartments and townhomes. The rehabilitation met the Enterprise Green Communities criteria and included substantial updates to mechanical systems, kitchens and baths with water-conserving plumbing fixtures, Energy Star appliances, energy-saving light fixtures and green label carpeting.
“Enterprise did exactly what they said they were going to do,” said Ms. Hamiel. “In November they moved my daughter, grandsons and me out into temporary residences and by February 2010, we were back in our new renovated home, just like they promised.”
Sierra Woods residents were thrilled to move back into their renovated homes and celebrated at a Grand Reopening Ceremony that fall.
Ms. Hamiel was chosen to speak on behalf of the community during the program. During the time of their relocation, she continued to check up on her neighbors and offer encouragement that they would soon be living in their homes again.
“I remember that day. I was so nervous to speak in front of everyone, but I was also excited to meet everyone from Enterprise that had worked very hard to honor their promises to us,” said Ms. Hamiel. “What I do remember saying as I looked out to all of my neighbors, most of whom call me ‘Mom’ or ‘Grandma,’ is that when we moved out the year before we were a community, and now that we’ve moved back, we’re a family.”
Ms. Hamiel says the community is still enjoying their new homes and the peace of mind that at the end of the month they are able to afford their rent. The residents have started a tradition of having cookouts on Easter, Mother’s Day, Fourth of July, Memorial Day and Labor Day. The children are especially looking forward to the Easter cookout this year, as Ms. Hamiel is planning an Easter egg hunt where each child will get an Easter egg with a silver dollar.
“This community is blessed and forever grateful,” said Ms. Hamiel.