Gerald Goray, President of Boca Raton, Fla.–based Goray Communities and Randy E. Rieger, principal of Housing Trust Group in Coconut Grove, Fla., each have lengthy track records for developing high-quality residential and commercial properties in Florida and other states. Their projects have ranged from affordable to high-end luxury communities, senior housing to shopping centers. With land prices so high at the height of Florida's boom, however, it was proving difficult to do more affordable projects.
So, when long-time vegetable farmers Ted and Trudy Winsberg offered to sell the pair 42 acres of their farm in southwestern Palm Beach County, Fla., for 30 percent below market value to build affordable, for-sale workforce housing and rent-restricted apartments, they understood that it was the opportunity of a lifetime. “A lot of times when someone builds tax-credit apartments or subsidized housing, you have to go into an area that's marginal because that's the only place you can get cheap land,” Goray says. “We were right in a crème de la crème area, surrounded by $400,000 to $500,000 houses.”
Still, the requirement to build homes that would be affordable for teachers, police officers, firefighters, and nurses was not an easy task in 2003. Along with land, home prices in the county were increasing by roughly 25 percent a year and the luxury market was booming. Material and labor costs were rising rapidly, as well. But Goray and Rieger shared the Winsbergs' concern that working family buyers were being priced out of the market.
The Winsbergs, who are ardent conservationists, also asked that the homes be as energy efficient and environmentally friendly as possible. All together, it made for a daunting, but intriguing, challenge.
“I thought it was a great idea,” Goray says. “We went to the site planner and architect and said, ‘Incorporate these things into the site plan and floor plans.'” They also researched pricing that would make the units affordable to the salaries of their target buyers and devised a cost-saving strategy that encompassed everything from unit design to materials pricing to construction techniques to marketing. “We knew we had to do some things a little bit different than everyone else was doing,” Goray says.
When sales began in December 2005, the base price for two-bedroom, two-bath condos was $198,900; townhouses started at $252,900 for a three-bedroom, 2½-bath unit with a one-car garage. (Pricing on the town-houses now starts at $292,900—still about $100,000 less than the median price of an existing single-family home in the county.)
MEETING THE CHALLENGE To keep prices down at the new community, named Green Cay Village after the Winsbergs' farm, architect George Tseng packed functionality into a small footprint—939 to 1,163 square feet for the condos and 1,419 to 1,549 square feet for the townhomes.
Another major decision that contributed to the project's success and its ability to meet its goal as an affordable community for middle-class families was to build the entire community at one time. They also used a concrete-and-steel forming system from Miami-based Outinord Universal that saved both time and labor costs. Plus, the developer locked in both construction financing and contracts for materials and labor, which kept the project from being hijacked by price hikes brought on by the hurricane seasons in 2004 and 2005.
“Rather than just build a model and sell from the model, we said, ‘We're going to build out the entire project, even without sales, to achieve the price efficiency on labor and materials,'” Goray says. “We contracted to build all of them in one fell swoop. ... Concrete was a big deal. We locked in concrete at $82 a yard. While we were building, it went up to $115 a yard.”
To honor the Winsberg's commitment to environmental conservation, all units feature Energy Star–rated appliances, ceiling fans in the bedrooms, an energy-efficient hot water heater and air conditioner, R30 insulation in the attics, and low-VOC carpet. Ted Winsberg bought water-saving showerheads for all the units, which were installed in the master baths, and one fluorescent light bulb each to take the place of a less energy-efficient incandescent bulb.
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Miami, FL.