Developer-Nonprofit Partnership Provides Affordable, Accessible Housing


Developers who build affordable communities are willing to make their way through complex federal, state and local regulatory requirements to build welcoming, safe apartment communities. That’s why NAHB Multifamily’s annual Pillars of the Industry Awards includes a category for these communities and the companies that build them.

Lawson Companies’ Seaside Harbor Apartments, in Virginia Beach, Va., is the latest Pillars winner in the affordable community (up to 100 units) category. The company’s chairman, Steve Lawson, saw an historic neighborhood near the beachfront and boardwalk that had seen better days. He realized that although there were two small early 1960s-era apartment buildings managed by nonprofit Samaritan House, which was struggling to fund a renovation, there simply wasn’t enough housing for people who worked on the boardwalk or in other service industry jobs.

Lawson’s company purchased the buildings — 39 units in all — at a market-rate price from Samaritan House, and replaced them with Seaside Harbor’s 76 new apartments. The apartments are built to be green and energy efficient, earning an EarthCraft certification. A quarter of the affordable units serve residents earning 40% of the area median income (AMI). The rest are affordable to people earning at or below 60% of AMI.

And the community is inclusive: 15% of the units are reserved for individuals with developmental disabilities, and 25% are fully accessible to those with other disabilities. The community also partnered with Hope House, a nonprofit that provides supportive services to developmentally disabled residents.

“Being to able to help families and provide the services to those families in partnership with Hope House is a unique experience and a hugely rewarding experience,” shared Susan Glancy, vice president of Lawson Companies and president of Lawson Realty Corporation.

Lawson kept Samaritan House on board as co-developer and co-general partner. The Lawson/Samaritan House partnership also provided substantial income and equity opportunities to the nonprofit, which will support its other outreach efforts to the homeless and victims of domestic violence or human trafficking.

Many state and local elected officials applauded the community at its grand opening. City officials who were involved in rebranding the area as the ViBe Creative district were particularly pleased that the new apartments also offered artists and craftspeople a high-quality place to live that was affordable.

“Every person deserves to have a safe place to live,” stated Will Sessoms, former mayor of Virginia Beach. “And Lawson has found the skills — and I really do mean skills, because to get these types of projects done is very difficult. But then after a lot of time and knowing what you’re doing, look what happens — we have a beautiful facility like this.”

For more on this story, see the video below.

For more information on the Pillars of the Industry Awards and how to apply for the 2020 awards, please visit

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