Community Development Department Director Paul Andrus
Los Alamos County Council will consider approving a land donation for The Bluffs during its Dec. 18 meeting. The donation and the entire project are contingent on the project officially receiving a LIHTC allocation from MFA. The deadline to apply for the tax credits is February and a decision is expected to be made in June.
The Canyon Walk Apartments have already been awarded LIHTCs.
Both apartment complexes will be built, owned and operated by Bethel Development, Inc., an Ohio-based company and its subsidiaries. Affordable housing projects is Bethel’s sole focus. The work doesn’t stop there. Bethel also aids its renters with assistance including family support services such as case management, support groups, vocational training, life skills and more.
If both projects come to fruition, they will be across the street from each other on DP Road. There are differences between the two complexes. Canyon Walk Apartments will have 70 units in four buildings. Units will range from one to three bedrooms. Eleven units are to be restricted to households earning up to 60 percent of the area median income (AMI); 49 units will serve households earning up to 50 percent AMI; and 10 units will serve households earning up to 40 percent AMI; as calculated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Meanwhile, The Bluffs would have 64 units of either one or two bedrooms. While the Canyon Walk Apartments is geared toward a variety of households, The Bluffs would focus on households with senior citizens or those 55 years old or older.
Housing and Special Projects Manager Andrew Harnden
“The Bluffs will be income-restricted and income limits vary by household size,” Community Development Department Director Paul Andrus said.
He explained that units would be rented to households with incomes up to 60 percent, 50 percent and 40 percent of AMI. As with the Canyon Walk Apartments, this is calculated by HUD.
Despite the differences, The Bluffs will go through the same process as the Canyon Walk Apartments to be awarded LIHTCs.
Housing and Special Projects Manager Andrew Harnden said last year 11 projects applied for the tax credits and six were awarded. He explained that MFA awards the credits using a point system. The MFA looks at several project attribute categories to award points including a housing project’s proximity to transit and other services, a community’s vacancy rate, how long a community’s list is for Section 8 Housing and whether a project gives preference to veterans.
“There’s a variety of characteristics they look for in the application process,” Andrus said.
Los Alamos County is considered a high need community by the LIHTC program, which Andrus said works in the County’s favor. The market need and need for affordable housing are both big driving factors, he said.
“It’s about the market need and the timing to meet those needs,” Andrus said.
He emphasized that having low-income housing is just one need in the list of many housing needs in Los Alamos.
“This community has needs across the entire housing continuum,” Andrus said. “This project (the Bluffs) will strategically address housing for lower income seniors. With Bethel on board and its history of good development and management we feel this will be good for the community.”
Andrus added that other housing needs are being addressed, too.
“We’ll continue to look for opportunities that address other needs in the community,” he said. “This is one part of the puzzle.”
If the MFA does not grant the tax credits to Bethel for The Buffs, Andrus said the County will pursue other housing options for the land parcel. If The Bluffs gets the green light, it would be the first of its kind in Los Alamos. Harnden said there isn’t any other local senior housing complex that receives low income subsidies.
“This would be the first Senior affordable housing with this funding source in Los Alamos,” Andrus said.
Having The Bluffs would be advantageous. More workforce and senior housing options means better quality of life for residents and more workers for local businesses, a stronger local economy and more people living and working in Los Alamos, Andrus said.