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Greenlight Communities Continues Mission to Build More Attainable Housing in Phoenix

A new apartment complex that will offer affordable rents to Phoenicians has broken ground, with plans to open the 208-unit building at 16th and Polk streets in April 2024. Streamliner 16th is one of several projects in the works by local developer Greenlight Communities, which focuses on providing attainable housing for the “missing middle”—aimed at teachers, nurses and restaurant workers—that come in about $500 less than the average apartment, says Greenlight partner Dan Richards. “We saw a real opportunity to provide homes for the masses for Phoenix,” Richards says. He sat down with us to talk more about this project and Greenlight’s work to bring housing that the average Valley resident can afford, without sacrificing quality or amenities.

Tell readers about the Streamliner 16th project.

Greenlight Communities develops attainable apartments, which are basically workforce apartments, in Phoenix and Tucson. We’re focused on apartments in the missing middle, so the middle 60-70% of renters who can’t afford the luxury units, which is over 90% of what’s built in Phoenix. We’ve been focusing on this for five to six years now.

Streamliner 16th is our 13th project in town. It’s 208 units. It’ll be studios, one-bedroom and two-bedrooms and the rent range will be $950, starting for the studio, up to about $1,500 for the two-bedroom units. In comparison to other luxury products, that’s about $500, or more, less than the other apartments being built in metro Phoenix.

We love this location. There’s a lot of freeway access and light rail access … this employment around this area … we love it. We work hard on the locations. We’re excited about Streamliner 16th and can’t wait to open it in April next year.

Let’s talk about attainable housing and the impact that you all hope to have with this project.

In the Valley and Tucson, we have about 5,000 units that we’ve been working on … We have about 2,000 that we have completed, about 2,000 that are under construction or in early construction now and we have another 1,000 on the boards.

Our sole focus is delivering this workforce level of new apartments. We have a lot of residents who are teachers, health care workers, restaurant workers, we have retirees—it’s people whose average annual income is around $40,000 to $50,000.

With the growth in Phoenix, all the freeway corridors and large projects like Taiwan Semiconductor and the Intel Fab growth, we see more workers moving into town and in that $40, $50, $60,000 annual salary level. I think this market is endless, especially with remote working and people moving in because of the large employment growth.

What is the difference between affordable and attainable housing?

Affordable is a general term used all the time. For us, the term affordable means something that has government subsidies. The buildings that we build are privately funded, so we don’t have any government programs assisting us with the construction, the rents or anything, but we build them in a way that allows us to deliver these lower rent levels.

There’s no one singularly focused on this in Phoenix like we have been over many years. A lot of other developers are focusing on luxury, but those rents start at $2,000. You have to make $70,000 to qualify. In reality, they’re missing the missing middle, which we’re delivering to. Attainable housing, a lot of people say workforce as well, those terms are synonymous for us.

What drives your focus on this “missing middle”?

In the downturn, we started purchasing older apartment communities and renovating them. We started renting those and loved buying existing product and rehabbing it into something affordable.

We then shifted back to new-build condominiums, and we were building for-sale products everywhere from price points from $300,000 up to $1.5 million for some units in downtown Scottsdale. But when we were building that, it just became obvious that the renovation stuff that we did right after the recession was really where the workers are and the people that had been forgotten in new product, and we saw a real opportunity to provide housing for the masses for Phoenix, that missing middle, that missing 60-70%.

It’s a culmination of 30 years of experience and different product levels that has brought us to something that Phoenix doesn’t have. We’re focused on providing the best version of that.

How are you able to deliver this housing?

There are three components. One is we try to identify underutilized land—these are land parcels that were maybe too big, too small for some other developers or have to go through a rezoning process, but these would always be located near employment centers, near the freeways, near jobs. We work hard to scour Phoenix and Tucson for locations like that.

The second thing is design efficiencies. We only have three floor plans, and they stack on top of each other. We have the same consultant team on the projects. We’re able to go fast with permitting and construction as well, so really keeping the design efficient on Streamliner and Cabana, which is our other brand.

The last one, we’re our own general contractor and we have our in-house civil engineering firm. In the beginning, civil engineering is the key with utilities, the grading and the initial permits. Having that in-house allows our team to solely focus on us. We can quickly respond to issues. The savings allows us to build for less, which allows us to pass along the product at a lower price point.

Those three things, that’s the secret package for us to deliver this.

What can people expect at Streamliner 16th?

These units, when you walk into them, are a little bit smaller than some of the luxury units, but they’re more efficient floorplans, so we don’t have a wasted inch. From a finish level, they’ll look almost identical to the luxury units.

At Streamliner 16th we have co-working space, an indoor fitness center, a pool, outdoor lounge areas and barbecue areas. We’re still giving the amenities that people want to enjoy in the community.

Let’s talk about some of the projects that you are working on next.

We have two Streamliners that are under construction. Streamliner 16th, which is what we’re talking about at 16th and Polk streets in Phoenix. We also have Streamliners 67th, which is at 67th Avenue and McDowell Road in the West Valley, and that’s right off I-10.

We’re getting ready to start construction on two projects not too far from the Arizona Cardinals stadium on 99th Avenue and Bethany Home Road that we’re getting ready to start. Then, one in the North Valley up by I-17 and Dove Valley, pretty close to Taiwan Semiconductor. So we’re busy, which is great.


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