Groves senior apartment issue continues

Published 10:15 am Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A developer’s request to place affordable housing for seniors in the city of Groves is on the table as leaders await more information.

Earlier this month Ida Spokas of KCG Development presented information on Pecan Groves Apartments intended for seniors 55 and over. It’s a wait-and-see game for KCG as council requested more information about the issue.

Groves City Manager D. Sosa said he is checking with city managers in Roundrock, Buda and Leander; where Spokas and her former employer worked on similar development; to see how those cities have been impacted by the addition of the senior apartments.

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The affordable housing project is not “Section 8” or subsidized housing but income based. KCG is competing with other developers for tax credits.

For example, with Section 8 rent is subsidized and the landlord or apartment owner is sent a check to make up for the difference in the rent versus what is paid to them. With affordable housing such as in KCG’s case, the developer is applying to obtain tax credits, which will offset the cost of development.

Banks, mortgage companies and lending institutions receive credits and invest in different projects. That money allows the developer to construct the project and set rent at an affordable rate without government subsidy and the business or lending institution gets credits.

In the case of Section 8, tenants are typically required to meet lower income standards then with affordable housing.

“In order for her to move forward with the project at this location, council must pass a resolution,” Sosa said, adding that deadlines are associated with the project and that a resolution by council doesn’t mean it’s a done deal.

“It doesn’t mean the apartments are approved. It’s just a hurdle for her (Spokas) to jump over for tax credits. Theoretically she could get the resolution and when the time comes down to a specific-use permit, the city could say no. I think our council will try and make a decision up front and early.”

The primary target for the apartments would be senior citizens age 55 and over who meet the income guidelines, but this doesn’t mean the apartments are just for seniors in Groves. A proposed breakdown of set-asides are based on the tenants income as compared to an Average Median Gross Income across the region that includes the Port Arthur and Beaumont areas as well as Groves. Twenty-four of the units will be rented at market rate, 52 units at 60 percent of the AMGI, 21 at 50 percent AGMI and 11 at 30 percent.

“Your readers should know that the emphasis for this complex is to provide low-income housing, as per TDHCA (Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs) and that KCG has chosen to market it as a senior’s complex,” Councilmember Jim Rasa said by email. “It would be a false presumption on the part of your readers to think that any senior could qualify to rent any unit in the proposed complex.”

Sosa said the key to any apartment complex and how it is received by the community, and it revolves around management, specifically on-site management.

Months ago a local developer was met with disdain from community members and council when asking the city for permission to expand a set of apartments.

“That was the issue with the other apartments,” Sosa said. “There was no on-site manager. We know management is the key, but what happens five years from now, 10 years from now? It’s not a short term issue but the long term that concerns people.”

Besides the resolution, KCG also needs a commitment from the city.

“It could be as little as giving them a dollar,” he said.

A better solution, should the issue go forward, is fixing up the road that services Carriage Park Apartments that have been there for decades in the 5300 block of twin City Highway. The current road was not built to correct specifications and is on the public right-of-way but not a city road. The city does work to patch the road.

“If we go through, there is another way to support the project. The city and the developer could rebuild the road. It would be a positive for the apartments that are already there and a new ingress/egress. But only if city council were to pass the resolution and ultimately give a specific-use permit to KCG.”

A specific-use permit requires a public hearing and input from citizens in the affected area.


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