Asheville's Lee Walker Heights wins funding for 212 new apartments

The North Carolina Housing Finance Agency awarded federal housing tax credits for a new apartment complex at Lee Walker Heights. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

The North Carolina Housing Finance Agency awarded federal housing tax credits for a new apartment complex at Lee Walker Heights.

The tax credits will generate more than $12 million in private investment for the construction of 212 affordable, energy-efficient, transit-oriented apartments in downtown Asheville’s, near the corner of Short Coxe and Biltmore avenues. The development budget for the project is estimated at $36.5 million.

“This award is the result of a communitywide effort, including Asheville Housing residents and staff, MHO (Mountain Housing Opportunities) staff, and significant financial support from the city and the county. Many thanks to everyone,” Asheville Housing CEO Gene Bell said in a news release.

Lee Walker Heights was built in 1950 as the first public housing community in Asheville with 96 apartments. The existing apartments will be demolished and a new apartment community and neighborhood will be built. The vision, developed in consultation with residents, is to replace the public housing community with a mixed-income community, including one-for-one replacement of the 96 deeply subsidized units, which will be mixed with 116 additional units.

Lee Walker Heights is surrounded by areas undergoing major transformation, including an expansion at Mission Hospitals and new businesses and market-rate homes in the South Slope neighborhood. However, the complex is isolated from the improvements because of steep slopes and only one street connection. As the new community is developed, a street will be built to connect it directly to Biltmore Avenue, allowing residents improved access to public transportation, businesses and jobs.

Lee Walker Heights residents will be eligible for relocation benefits and will be assisted by the Housing Authority and Mountain Housing Opportunities as they move to new homes. All current residents of Lee Walker Heights will have the right to return when the new apartments are complete.

I'm elated for the residents of Lee Walker, No. 1 because they'll get to come back to a development with all new units, and we have a lot of amenities in the units with playgrounds, community space," Bell said.

Local funds already approved by the city of Asheville and Buncombe County total $8.4 million, with each local government having committed $4.2 million.

It is anticipated that the project will employ more than 500 workers during the 18-24 month construction period, which is expected to begin in 2019.

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