Affordable Housing Complex Gets Green Light

A view of the Bethel Development, Inc. affordable housing complex in Farmington is an example of what to expect in Los Alamos. Courtesy photo
Los Alamos Daily Post

The housing demand is increasing in Los Alamos and the need for it to be affordable is just as high. While resources exist to help quench this need, a new rental housing project will soon be available to the public.

Bethel Development, Inc., a company based in Farmington, won the highly competitive 2018 low-income housing tax credits from the Mortgage Finance Authority Housing of New Mexico. This paves the way for the company to construct a 70-unit apartment complex off DP Road. What makes this apartment complex different is it is affordable workplace housing.

Construction is anticipated to begin March 2019. Currently it is estimated the apartment complex will be completed by March 2020 and occupancy available by June 2020. In addition to constructing the apartments, some roadwork will be done.

The project cost is $14 million. While Bethel pursued the tax credits and will construct and manage the property, the County has contributed to the project.

“The County will contribute by donating the land … and  the cost of building the offsite infrastructure in the roadway,” Community Development Department Director Paul Andrus said.

To get State approval for the project is good news, Andrus said.

“It was great … we’re in the stage to put all the pieces together to get it rolling,” he said.

What makes the project so great is that it fulfills a need in the community, Andrus said.

“We have a shortage of workforce affordable housing so combined with this need we feel Bethel is a very good partner … the location is tremendous … it’s a win for the community,” he said.

The complex will feature 70 units with one to three bedrooms. Amenities include in-house supportive services for the residents, such as financial counseling, a community space and a playground. Plus, the location is prime. Andrus pointed out that the area is in walking distance to the Canyon Rim Trail, an Atomic City Transit stop and Smith’s Marketplace.

To be able to rent an apartment, occupants need to income qualify. Renters cannot have a household income of more than 60 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI)

This is not the first time Bethel has pursued affordable housing in Los Alamos County; Andrus said two or three years ago the company was looking to do a project in the County but according to State standards, the County did not qualify as a “High Need Area”.

Andrus said the Mortgage Finance Authority awards the Housing Tax Credits based on points, which identifies communities as high, medium or low need. In the past, he said, the County didn’t make the cut. But last year, because the rental housing vacancy rate dipped below two percent, the County was deemed a high need or Tier 1 community.

Not only will the project help address some of the housing need but Andrus pointed out that there are economic benefits as well.

“We know we’re growing and the way to accommodate economic growth is housing,” he said.

There are other affordable housing resources in town. Mesa Del Norte and Mountain Vista apartments are affordable housing and several landlords in town accept Section 8 housing vouchers. Additionally, the County offers its Homebuyer Assistance Program and the Home Renewal Program, both managed by the Los Alamos Housing Partnership under contract with the County.

Housing and Special Projects Manager Andrew Harnden said the programs have attracted a lot of interest. In fact, he said, interest in the homebuyer program has “increased by the quarter.”

Andrus pointed out there are many needs in the community. There’s a need for housing for senior citizens, there is a need for housing for the seasonal workforce such as laboratory post doc students, and millennials need housing as well as families.

“For a community our size there’s an awful lot of need,” he said.

Still, Andrus and Harnden said the County is dedicated to working with Council and finding additional resources to address these needs.

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