Virginia Passes Bill to Evaluate Single-Stair/Point Access Block for Multifamily Dwellings

On April 4, 2024, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin signed into law Senate Bill 195, which directs the Commonwealth’s Board of Housing and Community Development (the “Board”) to convene a stakeholder advisory group (the “Advisory Group”) to evaluate and recommend revisions to the Uniform Statewide Building Code (§36-97, et seq. of the Code of Virginia) to allow Single-Stair/Point Access Block multi-family dwellings, provided that the building isn’t higher than six-stories.  The Advisory Group must submit its findings to the Board, as well as the Chairmen of the State House Committee on General Laws and the Senate Committee on General Laws and Technology no later than December 1, 2024.

This new law reflects the efforts of policymakers across the country striving to modernize housing policy to increase access to affordable housing.  However, unlike many initiatives which touch a single regulatory issue, such as density, zoning, lot size or environmental impact, Single-Stair/Point Access Block dwellings simultaneously address two distinct barriers to increase access to housing: density and zoning.

Single-Stair/Point Access Block is an architectural design concept prioritizing a single stairway within multifamily dwelling structures such as apartments or condominiums. This approach involves consolidating stair access to a single point within a residential or commercial block, provided it complies with local fire and building codes.

In traditional multi-story dwellings, multiple staircases are commonly dispersed throughout the building, leading to a network of access points on different floors.  Traditional multifamily buildings may be larger to accommodate the multiple staircases, but will probably have smaller, more expensive units.  Most American apartment buildings over four stories are required to have at least two means of egress from each unit.

In contrast, Single-Stair/Point Access Block multifamily buildings consolidate all staircases into a centralized location which encircles or is adjacent to the building’s elevator.  More commonplace in European, North African and Asian multifamily buildings, this design maximizes useable square footage and can lead to buildings with larger units and increased density.  If implemented at a larger scale in the United States, Single-Stair/Point Access Block buildings could increase both affordability and inventory in the communities where they can be built.

For the Advisory Group established under the new Virginia law, the Board will appoint experts in the areas of fire, safety and building design to discuss and evaluate whether or not to multifamily dwellings up to six stories can be adequately and safely served by a Single-Stair/Point Access Block.  The Board’s discussions will most likely focus on whether multifamily buildings will be permitted under current zoning controls and if increasing the number of units in the Commonwealth’s multifamily buildings is worth potentially sacrificing multiple means of egress from a safety perspective.  Many affordable housing professionals are looking forward to the Advisory Group’s findings to be submitted by the end of this calendar year.

Duane Morris Closes $36,000,000 Acquisition and Rehabilitation Transaction

A team of Duane Morris lawyers lead by Art Momjian represented Federation Housing, Inc. in the acquisition and rehabilitation of the Samuel Tabas Apartments located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The $36,000,000 transaction is structured with tax-exempt bonds and 4% Federal Low income housing tax credits. The tax-exempt bonds were issued in two series through the Philadelphia Authority for industrial Development. The Federal low income housing tax credits were syndicated by the National Equity Fund to TD Bank.

Duane Morris Forms Team for Acquisition Rehabs with Bonds and Tax Credits

Duane Morris partners Bob Archie and Art Momjian are working with Bob Jacobs of RCJ Consulting, LLC, Roy Diamond of Diamond and Associates, Eugene (“Geno”) Schiavo of Kitchen and Associates, and Pierce Keating of Keating Construction Company as a result of HUD authorizing the prepayment and refinancing of Section 202 Direct Loan projects have teamed together to help owners of seasoned Section 202 apartment buildings perform substantial renovations of their properties through the use of a financing structure known as a “lease/acquisition rehab” tax-exempt bond and tax credit structure. In this structure, the existing owner “leases” the apartment building to a technically unrelated limited partnership which leases and the renovates the apartment building through the use of tax-exempt bonds proceeds, 4% federal low-income housing tax credit equity proceeds, and owner’s purchase money mortgage financing. At least 50% of the prepaid rent or acquisition cost along with the renovation of the apartment building must be financed with volume cap tax exempt bonds, in order for the project to qualify for 4% Federal low income housing tax credits to provide equity for the project. Through the “low-income housing tax lease/acquisition rehab” structure, the owner may complete a substantial renovation of its project while reducing the amount of its existing debt service and receiving a developer fee for its services. To discuss whether your project would qualify for the “lease/acquisition rehab” structure contact Bob Archie at (215) 979-1915 or or Art Momjian at (215) 979-1521 or

U.S. Supreme Court Grants Certiorari in Township of Mt. Holly Case

The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari in Third Circuit Court of Appeals decision in the Township of Mount Holly, NJ vs. Mount Holly Gardens Citizens in Action. The genesis of the case is a proposed redevelopment plan by Mt. Holly Township, New Jersey that would eliminate existing homes in a neighborhood occupied by low-income residents and replace these homes with more expensive housing. The residents of this neighborhood organized and filed an action against the Township alleging violations of various anti-discrimination laws. The Third Circuit held that the adverse impact test under the Fair Housing Act, rather than a discriminatory intent test, should be applied and remanded the case back to the District Court for a determination of whether the proposed redevelopment plan of Mt. Holly Township violated the Fair Housing Act. The Township appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and the high court will review the decision of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

NJHMFA Announces the Fund for the Restoration of Multifamily Housing

The New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency has held two information sessions on the Additional Tax Credits/Fund for Restoration of Multifamily Housing which will be funded from the Super Storm Sandy CDBG grant provided to the State of New Jersey from HUD. The proposed Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Action Plan submitted by the State of New Jersey to HUD for approval includes the creation of the Fund for Restoration of Multifamily Housing. This Fund will be administered by the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (HMFA) and is expected to provide over $104 million in CDBG-DR funding to replenish the stock of quality, affordable housing units lost as a result of Super Storm Sandy. The NHMFA information sessions provided a description of the Fund’s proposed components, which includes leveraging CDBG-DR funds with the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program.

New Jersey Publishes Sandy CDBG Action Plan

New Jersey has published its action plan for the $1.8 billion CDBG grant allocated by HUD to assist the State’s Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts. The public comment period for the action plan will end at 5:00 pm on March 19. Additional allocations are expected to be made at subsequent dates to be determined by HUD. Funds must be spent within two years unless HUD provides an extension. Governor Christie has designated the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs as the entity responsible to HUD for administering the distribution of CDBG funds for New Jersey. The action plan provides for the distribution of the $1.8 billion of CDBG funds in the following areas: homeowner assistance; rental housing; economic revitalization; and support for state and local agencies. Within each category are a variety of programs to address specific recovery needs. As an example, with respect to rental housing, $100,000,000 is designated to facilitate the creation of quality, affordable housing units to help New Jersey recover from the loss of multi-family housing. CDBG funds will be provided as zero- and low-interest loans to qualified developers to leverage 9% and 4% low income housing tax credits, tax-exempt bonds and stand-alone financing to support development. Awards will be limited to $120,000 per unit. Similarly $75,000,000 will be awarded through NJEDA in amounts up to $10,000,000 to redevelopment agencies, municipalities, businesses and nonprofits, including CDFIs and CBDOs for community revitalization. These funds may be used for property acquisition, demolition, site preparation and infrastructure repair and installation as well as physical improvement and expansion of existing facilities.

Treasury Asked to Clarify Ability to Use Hurricane Sandy Tax-Exempt Bonds

In anticipation of the tax exempt bond financing to be provided by the Hurricane Sandy and National Relief Act of 2012, the Treasury has been requested to clarify the ability to finance the acquisition and rehabilitation with tax-exempt bonds of an affordable housing project which previously received an allocation of 9% federal low-income housing tax credits. The request has been made that the use of tax-exempt financing by an unrelated third-party purchaser of an affordable housing project which previously received an allocation of 9% Federal low-income housing tax credits in an amount sufficient to fund a portion of the cost of the notional “separate new buildings” that are constructed in response to federally declared natural disaster will not preclude the purchaser from stepping into the shoes of the prior owner with respect to the existing project which received an allocation of 9% federal low-income housing tax credits. This would allow existing projects which received 9% LIHTCs which have been damaged by Super Storm Sandy to be acquired and rehabilitated with tax-exempt bond financing and 4% LIHTCs through the “step in the shoes” provision of Section 42 and not affect the prior 9% LIHTC allocation.

Senate to Vote on Hurricane Sandy Bill

Voting 91 to 1, Senate Democrats and Republicans joined to move for a vote this week on the Hurricane Sandy and National Relief Act of 2012. This $60.4 billion Bill would fund recovery efforts in states affected by Hurricane Sandy. If passed by the Senate, the Bill would still need passage by the Republican controlled House. Although the Bill is less than the $82 billion requested by the governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, the Bill would provide much needed funds for affected states to clean up storm damage and undertake long-term projects to protect against the effects of future storms. The Bill would authorize an increase of allocation of Federal low-income housing tax credits, Historic Tax Credits, and New Markets Tax Credits as well as Recovery Zone Bonds in those areas affected by Hurricane Sandy.

Duane Morris Forms Hurricane Sandy Sub-Practice Group

In anticipation of the Federal programs which will be enacted to assist in the redevelopment of areas affecting by Hurricane Sandy, Duane Morris has formed the Hurricane Sandy Housing and Community Development Sub-Practice Group. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina Congress passed legislation which provided Federal low-income housing tax credit allocation, Federal New Markets Tax Credit Authority and special tax subsidized bond financing designated for effected areas. The Hurricane Sandy Housing and Community Development Sub-Practice Group is an interdisciplinary group including attorneys with the following specialties: Art Momjian, Federal tax credit programs, Harvey Johnson (NJ) and Jon Popin (NY), affordable housing; Bob Archie, Nat Abramowitz, and Bruce Jurist tax exempt bond finance; Marty Monaco (NJ), tax-exempt entities; and Chester Lee (NY) and Chris Winter, real estate and commercial financing. Members of the Hurricane Sandy Housing and Community Development Sub-Practice Group will provide a unique value to clients as a result of their experience with the Katrina programs, and their extensive knowledge and experience with state and local affordable housing and community development programs in New Jersey and New York. Members of the group can assist clients combine state and local programs with the Federal Hurricane Sandy relief legislation.

IRS Provides Relief for LIHTC Projects Affected by Hurricane Sandy

The Internal Revenue Service has issued Notice 2012-68 in which it suspends certain requirements under § 42 of the Internal Revenue Code for low-income housing credit projects to provide emergency housing relief needed as a result of the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy. The Services has provided that low-income housing outside the disaster area may be made available for any displaced household, regardless of income, on a temporary basis. Owners of low-income housing tax credit project must obtain approval from the applicable Housing Agency for the relief described in Notice 2012-69. The applicable Housing Agency will determine the appropriate period of temporary housing for each project, not to extend beyond November 30, 2013.

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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.

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