Historic Building Reuse for Affordable Senior Housing

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senior housingAn emerging new source of supply for affordable senior housing is the adaptive reuse of historic buildings. These projects not only create much-needed new units of senior housing, but also offer communities a creative solution to their historic buildings, many of which are in dire need of renovation. Affordable senior housing as the primary use in a historic redevelopment project can can work well, financially, because the projects can be structured to access State and Federal Historic Preservation Tax Credits along with Federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTCs).

In North Carolina, at least 19 historic buildings have been adaptively reused for low-income senior housing since 2000. School buildings are the most common type of historic structure that has been historically renovated in North Carolina for affordable senior housing. The Paul Braxton School located in Siler City is one such example. Built in 1922, this school sat empty for nearly 25 years until Community Housing Partners (CHP) converted its 32 classrooms into apartments. Architecturally distinctive, this school is one of the few surviving civic examples of the rarely implemented Art Deco style in Chatham and Randolph Counties.

Using LIHTCs along with North Carolina and Federal Historic Preservation Tax Credits, CHP reopened the Paul Braxton School in 1999 as Braxton Manor. The apartments, owned and managed by CHP, are income-restricted and rent from $410 to $495 per month with no deposit required. Section 8 vouchers are also accepted. Located on South Third Avenue, two blocks west of Siler City’s central business district and next to a residential neighborhood, local Siler City and Chatham residents immediately filled these units, many happy to return to the school in their later life.

North Carolina’s historic hospitals are another type of historic structure being renovated for affordable senior housing. In Greensboro, the historic L. Richardson Memorial Hospital reopened in 2002 as a 32-apartment facility for residents 55 or older. Originally opened in 1927, L. Richardson Memorial Hospital played an important role in the history of health care by significantly expanding the number of beds available for African-Americans in Greensboro. The hospital later closed in 1966 when a new, nearby facility opened. Beacon Management financed the redevelopment of the L. Richardson Memorial Hospital using LIHTCs as well as with North Carolina and Federal Historic Preservation Tax Credits. This development has had almost full occupancy since it opened more than ten years ago.

It is also important to highlight that historic renovations can be combined with new construction. In October 2012, the Historic Wilkesboro School reopened with 41 one- and two-bedroom apartments for low-income seniors. This project involved the renovation of the 13,500 square-foot Historic Wilkesboro School into 13 apartments and the construction of a new 31,500 square-foot addition to house the remaining 28 units. The total development cost for this project was $7.4 million. This project also accessed LIHTCs along with North Carolina and Federal Historic Preservation Tax Credits. Sustainability and walkability were two core components of this project. Each unit in the development is Energy Star certified. The project’s proximity to downtown enables residents to walk to the post office, restaurants, and other downtown businesses.

For more information on the Federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, which is administered through the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency, visit: http://www.nchfa.com/About/facts/lihtcfactsheet.pdf

For more information on the North Carolina and Federal Preservation Historic Tax Credits, visit the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office’s website: http://www.hpo.ncdcr.gov/tchome.htm


Tracy McInturff is a UNC-Chapel Hill Geography Undergraduate pursuing a Minor in Planning with the Department of City and Regional Planning.

Jordan Jones, a UNC-Chapel Hill graduate student pursuing a joint master’s degree in Public Administration and City and Regional Planning, is a Community Revitalization Fellow at the School of Government.

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