A Vibrant Community Starts with Housing for All

Renaissance at Steele
Memphis, Tennessee
It started with a drive for high-quality education, but has become a tale of neighborhood transformation. We spoke with Roshun Austin, CEO of The Works CDC, which is co-developing the project.
Roshun Austin, CEO, and her colleagues at The Works inspect the construction in progress at Renaissance at Steele.
BlueHub was our savior. Honestly…think about this kind of investment in a suburb that was the foreclosure center of the region. This will be precedent setting in Memphis and the region.”
Roshun Austin
CEO, The Works CDC
Roshun Austin and her colleagues at The Works inspect the construction in progress at Renaissance at Steele.

You are helping support education through housing?

Studies show that 70% of the factors in children’s lives that impact educational attainment happen outside of school. And having housing stability is a huge determinant of success.

A construction worker on site at The Works CDC project in Memphis
The Works CDC is rehabilitating distressed buildings to create affordable housing.

So you are creating affordable housing near schools?

Frayser, one of Memphis’ oldest working-class communities, had the region’s highest concentration of vacant or nearly vacant multifamily buildings. There was a group of over 500 units of pretty distressed multifamily housing directly across the street from a high school. There is an elementary school next door and a middle school around the corner. A foundation wanted to tackle rehabbing the housing and came to us for our experience with Low-Income Housing Tax Credit projects.

But there were financing challenges?

Several banks asked to meet with us. But people didn’t want to take a bet on Frayser. For a moment we were kind of stuck. One of the people on our staff had worked with BlueHub for years — and BlueHub had already taken a bet with a Frayser charter school. We were thrilled to work with an organization with BlueHub’s experience.

LOAN TO rebuild 146 units of affordable housing
A construction worker on a ladder at The Works CDC site in Memphis.

Are you rehabbing the building?

We have taken the property down to the studs. We are creating 146 apartments for families at 60% or less of the median income. To support the school strategy, every unit has a washer and dryer; the cost of doing laundry can prevent children from coming to school because they don’t have clean clothes. We address health issues around respiratory disease. There will be a community space with WiFi access, where children can do their homework. We will offer computer classes and partner with Girls Inc., Memphis Athletic Ministries, and other nonprofits.

Is this project replicable?

Yes, the whole idea is to replicate it in other areas across Memphis and the region, wherever there is a housing need.

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