Housing authority seeks city support for proposed senior housing complex

Proposed senior housing complex

The Beaumont Housing Authority (BHA) is seeking the city’s support for a proposed senior housing complex that would be constructed adjacent to the Great Lawn near the Lakeside Center, a senior activity center taking the place of the Best Years Center.

At a meeting Dec. 5, BHA presented the Beaumont City Council with a slide show highlighting the potential benefits of the housing complex, dubbed Le Belle Maison. The housing authority is asking the city for support for the $18 million project as it is being considered for low-income housing tax credits, along with a long list of competitors. Projects vying for the funds are rated on a point system. The city’s support adds points to the project. The projects judged to have the most points are chosen to receive low-income housing tax credits during a highly competitive selection process.

BHA Executive Director Robert Reyna said if the project is built on the city-owned property proposed, the ideally located 150-unit complex would offer citizens age 55 and older a new affordable housing option in downtown Beaumont. The complex would have some amenities, such as meeting rooms for socializing, said Reyna, but would forgo features like a gym that would be available across the street once the Lakeside Center is complete. That way, he explained, the seniors living at  Le Belle Maison would be encouraged to go to the senior center and interact with other seniors, a practice that physicians say can lead to a longer, healthier life.

“Right now, the housing authority has over 7,500 applicants on its waiting list,” Reyna revealed, stressing a need for more affordable housing in Beaumont. “Of that number, over 600 of them are elderly.”

“My opinion in general is … the missing element is residential,” Community Development Director Chris Boone suggested in reference to downtown revitalization efforts. “Is this the best location? I don’t know. … In general, we are supportive. We need some residential downtown, and that’s going to help.”

“My hope is that it will spur development,” Ward 2 Councilman Mike Getz remarked. “I could foresee potentially a drug store coming in, a small supermarket. Something like that could really be the catalyst to helping downtown blossom.”

During citizen comments, Beaumont business owner Eric Bender of Bicycle Sports said he feels downtown is the wrong place for a senior center.

“More public housing – really? I don’t understand that, and especially right near the Event Centre,” said Bender. “I don’t know what you’re long-term plan for development around that area is, but it doesn’t strike me as being a good idea.”

The council did not vote on whether they would support the proposed project or not. They said they would address the matter in future discussions, and consider other local projects possibly competing before they make a decision.

Sharon Brooks can be reached at (409) 832-1400, ext. 241, or by e-mail at sharon [at] theexaminer [dot] com.