Whitted project gets housing tax credits

Aug. 19, 2014 @ 06:06 PM

Second time was the charm for the proposed Whitted Junior High School redevelopment, which has received an allocation of low-income housing tax credits from the state.

The $631,210 award from the N.C. Housing Finance Agency will help finance 79 homes for elderly, low-income residents.

Developers use the credits to obtain private financing from investors looking to shelter some of their money from federal taxes. Whitted’s would-be developer, The Integral Group, last year was figuring a credit award would be worth about 10 times more in financing than its actual dollar amount.

Whitted is a 1922-vintage structure that started life as Hillside Park High School, in that guise serving as Durham’s first high school for blacks.

The building is now the property of Durham County, which picked Integral, an Atlanta-based firm, to lead a redevelopment effort. The project will include low-cost housing and a pre-school.

Integral officials and county administrators couldn’t be reached for comment, but they’ve relayed word to elected officials that the project remains on track. The Housing Finance Agency’s decision came about a year after it turned down an initial application for the tax credits.

“The word is they’re pleased and are looking at moving forward,” County Commissioner Ellen Reckhow said, alluding to the heads-up messages elected officials received in advance of Tuesday’s formal announcement by the state. “So I think it’s positive.”

Recent news from the state hasn’t all been rosy for the project, however.

The N.C. General Assembly deadlocked on the question of extending the state’s historic-preservation tax credits, another source of funding that Integral’s finance plan had counted on.

The deadlock between the state House and state Senate means the preservation credit program – unrelated to the federal housing tax credits the N.C. Housing Finance Agency administers – will expire at the end of the year.

Integral Vice President Daryl Jones said earlier this month the company was “disappointed” to see the state preservation credits go.

But because the financing plan relied on many sources of revenue, the company remained “confident that the [Whitted] project will proceed to a groundbreaking in 2015,” he said.

The federal government still offers preservation tax credits that are separate from the state program that’s expiring.

Whitted’s financing also relies on contributions from the city and county governments. Reckhow said she has “not heard anything about” whether Integral will ask them for more money to make up for the non-availability of state preservation credits.

She added that she’d asked whether there’s any chance the Whitted project could move quickly enough to qualify for state preservation credits by the end of the year.

“It’s a long shot,” she said. “But I have not gotten an answer to that yet.”