16 December 2009

Housing Project Nears Completion In Amarillo


Affordable housing stock in Amarillo will increase with the completion of two apartment complexes in the city, but inventory still won't meet demand, two city representatives said.

Tenants have begun to move in to the first units completed at Cypress Creek at Jason Avenue Apartment Homes, one of two neighboring complexes that Austin apartments developer Bonner Carrington Corp. is building in north Amarillo, just east of River Road.

The $20.7 million dual project will provide affordable housing for families and individuals at Cypress Creek and for older adults at Mariposa Apartment Homes at Jason Avenue, next door.

The housing will be available to individuals and families who make no more than 60 percent of the $53,900 median family income estimated for Amarillo by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Bonner Carrington Corp. started construction of the complexes in September 2008, with help from $13 million in tax-exempt mortgage bonds issued by a multicounty nonprofit agency and $2.55 million in government money.

The government money included $1.1 million from the city of Amarillo Home Investment Partnership Program, which supports construction and renovation of affordable housing, and $250,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant money allocated by the city's Community Development Advisory Committee.

"It won't address the need completely," CDAC Chairman James Allen said. "Honestly, it's a never-ending battle. The more we do, it seems like the more need there is, unfortunately. I don't really see us, in the near future, catching up to the demand."

An estimated 2,400 individuals or families are on a waiting list for rental housing vouchers the city provides through federal funding, city Community Development Administrator Todd Steelman said.

"Right now, that's equating to about a 2½-year waiting time to get on the program," Steelman said.

For several years, the city has received $6 million to $7 million annually for rental assistance for low- to moderate-income residents. About 1,100 individuals or families currently are being served, he said.

The amount that residents receive to help pay rent is determined by their income, Steelman said.

The city has seen increased applications for housing assistance during the current economic downturn. But the waiting period also is being stretched because more individuals and families need to stay in the assistance program longer, Steelman said.

Cypress Creek will contain 156 two-, three- and four-bedroom units upon its completion in March, and about 20 percent of the units already are pre-leased, spokeswoman Beth Woods said.

Five Cypress Creek buildings, containing 66 apartments, are ready for move-in, with about 10 apartments occupied, according to Woods and Property Manager Arra Coleman.

The first units in the 96-apartment Mariposa will be available for senior residents in January, Woods said.

Annual income limits for residents are based on the area's median income for individuals and families of different sizes.

Cypress Creek offers a clubhouse with a fitness studio, a business center, a family activity room, a sport court and playground.

Mariposa will have a fitness room, theater, meeting area, library, salon, card and craft rooms and an outdoor pavilion with a fireplace.

City staff and CDAC members looked at the projects as an opportunity to encourage economic development.

"This is the largest project, that I'm aware of, there (in north Amarillo) in quite some time," Allen said. "We hope that that kind of builds, so that you might see other businesses come in."

Older adults living in north Amarillo also will benefit from a housing solution close to their current home, he said.

"If it's hard for them to maintain a home, this is a way for them to stay in the neighborhood that they're familiar with, but to move into a facility that will take care of a lot of their needs," he said.

Bonner Carrington has developed nine communities of Texas apartments across the state, including two opened last summer in Houston. The company also has plans to announce development of more complexes in 2010, Woods said.

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