Kenai senior and low-income housing projects move forward

The Kenai Peninsula Housing Initiative’s plans to bring low-income and senior housing to Kenai are rolling forward with a low-income housing tentatively titled Clear Pointe Apartments and senior housing with the working name of Kenai Meadows.

If funds and permits are acquired as planned, KPHI executive director Steve Rouse said his group — a not-for-profit housing developer — expects to begin building the developments in mid-2017.

Both complexes will be on a Redoubt Avenue property that the city of Kenai voted to donate to KPHI in a June 18 meeting.

KPHI began building and managing housing developments in the 1990s and has now built 109 developments on the Kenai peninsula, managing 96. Rouse said the Clear Pointe and Kenai Meadows, which will be the KPHI’s first developments in Kenai, are typical of the group’s projects.

Clear Pointe, the low-income housing, will be a two-story six-plex containing two one-bedroom units, two two-bedroom units, and two three-bedroom units. The ground floor will be dedicated to handicapped-accessible space.

“Those units are not restricted to those populations, but KPHI makes it a practice to try to increase the inventory of rental units for people who experience either mobility or sensory impairment, i.e somebody in a wheelchair, or the deaf or the blind,” Rouse said.

Accommodations for mobility include lower shelves, countertops, and refrigerator doors for those in wheelchairs, as well as wider doors and handrails in the bathrooms. For the visually impaired, there will be strobing lights of different colors to indicate a fire alarm or a guest ringing the doorbell.

Kenai Meadows, the senior housing complex, will not be an assisted living home but a one-story townhouse-style six-plex of four two-bedroom units and two one-bedroom units arranged side-by-side horizontally, with garages for each unit — similar to KPHI’s Silverwood Senior Housing in Soldotna.

Rouse emphasized that Kenai Meadows would not be an assisted-living facility but a collection of housing units designed to allow seniors to “age in place” — to live in a location that will accommodate their shifting levels of ability.

“We know through our own experience and information provided by a variety of state and national organizations that health is not a straight line, it’s not a linear equation,” Rouse said. “It’s a cyclical up and down wave, so to speak. People who may be healthy one day will be possibly infirm the next day, and recover, so there’s no need for them to have to move — if they are at all capable of maintaining their residence, we want them to do that.”

KPHI will fund its Kenai developments in part through grants from the state-owned financing company Alaska Housing Finance Corporation. These grants are distributed through a competitive process, according to Alaska Housing Finance Corporation’s acting Planning and Programs Director Daniel Delfino.

“For every dollar of grant funding we have available, we’ll receive between $1.50 and $2 in requests,” Delfino said.

To become eligible, the projects will be the subjects of two market studies — one on the low-income proposal and the other on senior housing — to determine if Kenai’s existing housing market is suitable for the projects. To do so, “we’ll look at the overall health of the market,” Delfino said.

“What (the market studies) look at is the general supply and demand, the compatibility of the proposed product with the existing housing stock,” Delfino said. “…Will the project’s success come at the expense of a neighboring project? We don’t want to build a new project with state funds that will bankrupt one of the projects (AHFC) has a mortgage on, that may be neighboring. So we take a more holistic view of the market than a private lender would, who’s just looking for a return on a specific investment.”

The studies will be performed under contract with the housing finance research group Novogradac and paid for by KPHI. Delfino said study costs range from $7000 to $5000, depending the data AHFC has previously collected on the local market and whether or not researchers visit the site.

Rouse said the grant applications, like the overall project, remain on schedule.

“Those market studies will be complete, we anticipate, sometime in September,” Rouse said. “Then within a short time AHFC determines whether or not the projects can be sustainable, or whether the applicant needs to adjust either the unit mix or the size of the project… The (grant) applications are due usually sometime by mid-November, and the decision is made by January, and you’re off and running.”

 

Both Kenai Meadows and Clear Pointe will be built on a 2-acre section of a partially developed 77-acre city owned lot on Redoubt Avenue, conditionally donated by the city council in an meeting on June 15.

In his original donation request to the city council in May, Rouse had requested the Redoubt location for the low-income housing and a different property for the senior complex — on 2nd Avenue, a block from the Spur Highway and the Swanson Square shopping center. Votes in favor of donating the Second Avenue property were cast by council members Bob Molloy and Mike Boyle, who said the location would allow seniors walkable access to retail and social venues.

Rouse said KPHI favored the Second Avenue location for the same reason.

“We had heard that there was some opposition to the 2nd Avenue location,” Rouse said. “It was a bit of a surprise to KPHI that that opposition was successful in convincing the council to locate both projects on Redoubt Avenue. The purpose of our request for Second Avenue was because of its location, in which we would agree with Mr. Boyle that it was in some ways a more convenient location.”

Unlike the Redoubt property, the Second Avenue property doesn’t have existing connections to the municipal water and sewer system.

“It posed some different development obstacles, because of water and sewer availability, and some topographical challenges, but we were willing to do that as a preference,” Rouse said of the Second Avenue land.

Earlier the city council had rejected an offer to buy the prospective Second Avenue donation property by Daniel McKiernan, who is building a house on land he owns adjacent to the site and planned to buy it as a buffer space. Donating the Redoubt site to KPHI instead of the Second Avenue site leaves the Second Avenue lot as city property. Kenai city manager Rick Koch said it could be the subject of a future municipal land auction.

Rouse said that although the Redoubt location wasn’t KPHI’s preference, his group has “no concern over the marketability or the sustainability of these projects at the location donated by the city.”

“We recognize that there’s available water and sewer and additional area to expand at the Redoubt location, and while it isn’t the closest to town it isn’t a long way from town,” Rouse said. “These units are designed to attract independent seniors. Most often in our experience, that means they have cars and are able to drive.”

McKiernan said he believes a housing complex next door would have harmed his property values. He still intends to buy the property next door if the city seeks bids on it in the future.

Rouse said KPHI projects haven’t harmed the neighborhoods where they’ve been built.

“We do run into opposition, but we have found that it’s usually based in misinformation or misunderstanding,” Rouse said. “Quite often terms are used or bandied about within the public that doesn’t live with this type of activity on a day-to-day basis. Once the information is understood about how we develop, what our responsibilities are to develop, our record of responsible development, that we are a community development organization, then that opposition just kind of fades away. Because we now have a 12-year history of our own development showing that these projects seldom pose any difficulty to anybody in the neighborhood.”

 

Reach Ben Boettger at ben.boettger@peninsulaclarion.com.

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