Texas housing board chooses South End site for low-income senior living complex

Jehovah Jireh Place of Grace should be like this senior living complex on Major.

The debate over where a low-income senior living complex will be erected in Beaumont has come to an end, with a lone finalist awarded the state tax credits needed to fund development. 

Two proposals were vying for the tax credit allocations – one in the city’s West End on Phelan Boulevard, under the direction of out-of-state backers NuRock, the other in the South End, the product of a partnership between Itex, a local business, and Beaumont nonprofit Jehovah Jireh.

Only one property could benefit from the tax credits, and the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) has determined the award would be granted to the South End development near Antioch Missionary Baptist Church on West Cardinal Drive.

Each of the proposed properties was targeted to serve a need for affordable senior housing by offering reduced rental rates to low-income qualifiers. However, the proposed West End site drew heavy criticism as soon as the application came to light, Beaumont City Councilman Mike Getz reported in March.

“Since this project was first publicly announced in January, I have received a considerable number of phone calls and letters from citizens expressing their concern about the location of this proposed development,” Getz said. According to Getz, he received comments related to “property values, congestion, enforcement of age limits, (and) bad press on NuRock,” the company applying for the Phelan construction tax credits.

Roy Steinhagen, a property owner in the Phelan neighborhood, voiced many of the same concerns raised by Councilman Getz.

“There’s a lot of fast moving traffic there already,” Steinhagen said, “without much capacity to add much more traffic.”

Also, he added, “Calder (near Phelan) doesn’t have sidewalks, and they have deep ditches.” Steinhagen went on to cite additional reasons why Phelan was less than an ideal location for a proposed senior housing complex, such as lack of services and transportation, as well as NuRock’s reportedly checkered past.

NuRock made the news in its native Georgia when CBS Atlanta investigative reporter Jeff Chirico said there were complaints of “mold and unresponsive management” at one of its complexes, with owner and CEO Robert Hoskins living “in a $1.3 million lake house, thanks in part to you, the taxpayer.”

Former employees of NuRock told Chirico that the company allows residents to live in unsafe and unhealthy homes while benefitting from millions of dollars in tax credits, but Texas-based NuRock representative Dan Allgeier told The Examiner that those reports are untrue and unfounded.

“It is old, and it is not accurate,” Allgeier said. “We can do business in any state that we work in.” In fact, although Allgeier was not awarded the TDHCA tax credits for the proposed Phelan senior housing complex, his company was awarded other tax credits for a separate application.

Bad press aside, Allgeier said he was not accustomed to opposition when it comes to constructing senior housing.

“This is the first time I’ve ever gotten anyone opposed to a senior property,” he said. “People need to understand that this is not a public housing authority; it is not low-income housing. This will be a fenced and gated community for seniors. This is the best neighbor known to man.

“I think they just don’t understand what it is we’re proposing to do,” Allgeier said.

But while Allgeier and NuRock could not rally community support, competitor Itex and Jehovah Jireh drew support in droves.

As reported in March, the proposed construction by Itex and Jehovah Jireh is supported not only by the South Beaumont community, but also by community officials and neighborhood associations. In the application for tax credits supplied to TDHCA, letters of support are offered from the Pear Orchard Neighborhood Association, the Jefferson County Housing Finance Corporation, and Beaumont community development director Chris Boone, to name but a few.

“We are supportive of this project as it is located in areas that have been targeted for redevelopment efforts,” Boone wrote to TDHCA. “Specifically, this project is located within the West Oakland/Pear Orchard Neighborhood Plan area. The plan specifically calls for new and better housing options. This project would be the latest effort in this plan, which over the past few years has seen such improvements and a new library, new businesses, a new activity center and new housing options. Moreover, your proposed development is located within one of Beaumont’s Neighborhood Empowerment Zones. These local economic incentive zones seek to encourage new businesses and housing options in areas targeted for redevelopment. To date, this area has been the most active zone, resulting in new single-family and multi-family housing, national retail businesses offering jobs and servicing the community, as well as commercial-manufacturing businesses, also offering jobs in the area.”

The Rev. John Adolph, representing Jehovah Jireh, at that time said the support for the nonprofit’s projects has been encouraging. Additionally, the product put out by the local developer has been well-received and is beautifying a neighborhood once on a steady downward spiral.

“We were able to take an area of town that was horrible and make it a beautiful, nice place to live,” Adolph said. According to Adolph, the senior complex will mesh nicely with the single-family housing and multi-family dwellings already in the neighborhood.

“This is something we don’t have in that part of town,” he said. “But it’s something we need in that part of town.”

A senior living complex, Providence on Major, opened recently in Beaumont’s West End. Also developed by Itex, Providence is an example of the facility soon to open in Beaumont’s South End, according to Itex President Chris Akbari.

“It should be very nice – first class for the senior citizens,” Akbari told The Examiner. “It’s a nice facility with lots of green space, walking trails, connection to the church, a place to get your hair done, a coffee center…

“We just received allocation last week (end of July) from the TDHCA, so we still have a lot to do,” he said, but added that the senior housing complex should be well on its way to fruition by the end of the year.

“Hopefully, people will be able to start moving in at the end of 2016,” he said. Akbari added that he was excited to be a part of a project headed by a nonprofit with a viable game plan and a good cause.

“They’ve had this vision for many years,” he said. “It means a lot to them to have this allocation to be able to conduct this service.”

Adolph said the South End project is two to three years in the works. Since the beginning, Adolph and associates started garnering the community support needed to facilitate such a project.

“We had a round table discussion, and one of the areas we saw a need was for adequate, affordable, safe senior housing,” he said. “We think it needs to be affordable, and also very attractive.”

The main selling point Adolph feels will assist in the mission is that the project is for the benefit of local residents facilitated by local residents.

“We’re all from here,” Adolph said. “We’re homegrown. The developer, the banks, the contractor – this is home for us.

“We are all Beaumont-based, and that’s paramount. We are a local group of people who want to make this neighborhood, this city, this county a better place to live.”

The South End’s Jehovah Jireh Place of Grace is a proposed 128-unit senior living complex. There will be 76 one-bedroom/one-bathroom units and 52 two-bedroom/two-bathroom units. There will be a combination of 30 percent, 50 percent, 60 percent and market rate rents.

 

Jennifer Johnson can be reached at (409) 832-1400, ext. 231, or by e-mail at jennifer [at] theexaminer [dot] com.

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