Community Development Block Grant
Success Stories

El Paso, TX - Mayor Carlos Ramirez

Old San Francisco Historic District

The revitalization of the Old San Francisco Historic District used CDBG funds to create affordable housing for low-income families while preserving the character of one of the oldest neighborhoods in El Paso. The program involved the restoration of all the housing in the 80-year-old historic residential neighborhood situated directly behind City Hall in the downtown Central Business District. A small, self-contained area of approximately two square-blocks, Old San Francisco consists of 13 stately old buildings which were built between 1908 and 1923 as single family residences, boarding houses or hotels. By 1985, when the area was officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places, all the buildings were in serious disrepair and the once-prestigious area was blighted by gangs, drug use and crime.

Because of its central location, as well as the deplorable conditions there, the City had attempted for years to generate interest in the rehabilitation of the Old San Francisco housing, but sufficient funds were not available from either public or private sources. Finally, with the inception of the HOME program, the City had the resources to create the needed rehabilitation program.

The initial financing package combined HOME funds with private bank financing, but the property owners soon became frustrated with the amount of red tape required by the lending institutions. At that point, the program was revised to combine CDBG funds and HOME funds. By including CDBG in the mix, the City was able to incorporate a refinancing option which was effective in achieving acceptable cash flow for properties with marginal viability. The financing formula which eventually proved feasible, and successful for all the properties involved, was a 40/60 loan/grant split with a three percent interest rate attached to the loan portion.

The program restored 149 one- and two-bedroom apartments for low-income residents. Rents range from $295 to $350 per month for the one-bedroom units to $350 to $425 for the two-bedroom apartments, including all utilities. One building containing 36 single-room-occupancy units was completed in 1991 with financing from HUD's Section 8 Moderate Rehabilitation (SRO) program. A duplex and another building with four two-bedroom apartments were renovated outside of the program with private financing alone. All the properties were renovated in accordance with preservation standards and requirements so that the District retains its historic integrity.

The City took a holistic approach to the revitalization of the District; this included improving the infrastructure of the two streets in the neighborhood. New landscaping, paving, sidewalks, traffic flows, parking sites and historic street lighting transformed Old San Francisco into a safe and attractive source of pride for its low-income residents. In an area that had proved resistant to different approaches for more than 20 years, the CDBG/HOME funding created a showcase for future generations.

The successful completion of the program was celebrated during CD Week 1998 with a City-hosted block party for Old San Francisco residents at a small neighborhood park which had been constructed, also with CDBG funds, during the 1980s.

The housing rehabilitation component of the revitalization of Old San Francisco involved the investment of $3,335,350 in CDBG funds and $2,220,000 in HOME funds over a period of six years. The infrastructure improvements in the neighborhood involved about $696,600 in CDBG funds, $85,800 in UDAG pay-back funds, and $86,700 in City public works funds. Approximately $800,000 went into the 36-unit SRO property, and approximately $200,000 in private funds went into the rehabilitation of the six other apartments.

Beyond what it has accomplished for the City and the residents of Old San Francisco, the program demonstrates an interesting approach to the use of public financing. No private financing was involved but, because the public financing covered 100 percent of the costs of the rehabilitation, the City will receive program income of approximately $138,000 annually in loan pay-backs which can be used for future CDBG housing activities for low-income persons.

Contact: Deborah Hamlyn, Director, Department of Community and Human Development, (915) 541-4643

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