Senior rental housing plans put on hold

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Flower Mound Town Hall. Photo by Bill Castleman

The only three people in the overflowing council chambers during the Feb. 6 meeting who focused on whether a development application would be allowed to be considered by town staff were council member Don McDaniel, Deputy Mayor Kevin Bryant and Assistant Town Manager Tommy Dalton.

Confusion about the issue of affordable senior rental housing dates back to a “fake news” Facebook posting alleging that “subsidized housing” was coming to Flower Mound. That statement set off a social media panic incorrectly assuming that federal HUD Section 8 housing was coming to town.

The Town Council meeting on Jan. 17 clarified that the affordable housing was specifically for seniors and that it would be Housing Tax Credit (HTC) developments administered by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA), funded by the U.S. Treasury Department and overseen by the Internal Revenue Service.

The council’s specific issue on Monday actually concerned an additional step in the development process– prior to approaching a community’s staff with a project application– that’s required by the State of Texas for developers of HTC senior rental housing. It’s an additional step not required by any other type of developer presenting a proposal for consideration by a community.

In other words, the issue was about a government-required piece of paper; not about real estate. That piece of paper says a community will allow a developer to approach that community with a real estate proposal for senior housing. It allows a developer to “knock-on-the-door.” Period.

Instead, everyone, except McDaniel, Bryant and Dalton, focused on the real estate-related specifics of two potential HTC senior developments. No one “saw the forest,” because they were focusing on two “trees.”

While most public comments concerned the real estate issue of “location, location, location,” there were also protests about structure design; followed by traffic concerns, child safety issues, plus zoning and Master Plan amendment concerns, among others.

Mayor Tom Hayden summed it up, saying: “We support the cause; we don’t support the location.”

Among the public speakers were longtime residents and senior “activists” Mary Kay Walker, Doug Brown, plus Flower Mound Affordable Senior Housing Alliance committee members Carol Kohankie, Paul Stone (who gave Hayden $20 to pay the fee for the two requested applications, if approved) and Denis Toth, who said: “It’s a beginning. We had an opportunity for senior housing in 2009 with Old Orchard, then Highland Court got turned down. All you’ve done is stretch this thing [affordable senior housing] out.”

For more than three hours, the “horse-before-the-cart” discussion focused solely on the location of and real estate specifics about the prospective Timber Place (proposed for the Cross Timbers and Auburn Drive area) and Marigold (proposed for the FM 407 and Stone Hill Farms Parkway area) developments.

“Not one person in this room is getting any younger and, at some point, our income will begin to wane,” said Patsy Mazur, the final public speaker. “This could’ve been done in Flower Mound before; it was called Southgate. Nobody lives down there. Not one homeowner would’ve been affected.”

She added that the Southgate development was to be located at the intersection of FM 2499 and Gerault Road, with 250 of the 1,000-units to be dedicated to senior housing. Opponents had pointed to the increase in traffic and council denied the development.

Council member Bryan Webb echoed Mazur’s concern about the town’s aging population and ability to afford future housing.

“In 2000, of 50,000 town residents, 7.5-percent (3,800 people) were age 55+ or older; in 2010, of 64,000 residents, it was 15.2-percent (9,800 people); and, in 2015, of 68,000 residents, 18.3-percent (12,500 people) were age 55+ or older,” he said. “The statistics for residents age 75-years or older are: in 2000, there were 555; in 2010, there were 887; and, in 2015, there were 1,588. We are an aging community. There is a need [for senior housing] and it’s a need not being met today.”

Council member Jason Webb agreed that: “There is a need; an established need. Tax credits are a good option, but I don’t know if there are other options [individual housing with affordable rents] that might also work.”

“With the price of land, you cannot build a new home in Flower Mound for under $450,000,” said Hayden. “The only way you can do that [build an affordable individual house and call it senior] is to have greater density, then you’ll have people say they don’t want density.”

Deputy Mayor Kevin Bryant said: “I was glad that I didn’t hear that this is a subsidy issue. If we give [a resolution of] support for the application, it just means we agree to listen to that application.”

Council member Itamar Gelbman cited Bryan Webb’s resident age statistics to disagree that affordable senior housing is needed.

“Since 2000, the prices for houses in Flower Mound went up and those people who moved in can afford to live here and we don’t need to create affordable housing for them,” he said, attributing the growth in senior residents to newcomers and ignoring the 15-year aging of existing town residents between the years of 2000 and 2015.

Finally, McDaniel re-focused the discussion on the requested resolution of support from the town to allow the developers to go forward for its application for 2017 Competitive 9-percent HTC housing to the TDHCA by the March 1 deadline.

“The owners of these pieces of property are being forgotten,” he said. “They deserve to have their interests represented and to have an application for a development considered. On a daily basis, the town staff acts as the first filter for applications. Some of them make it through; a lot of them don’t.

“The state said a resolution of support [is needed] before the application; not for the project, not for the location, not for the design, not for setbacks, not for walls, not for the trees, not for the number of units. [But,] will you [the town] stand in support of hearing the application.”

He went on to address concerns people had expressed about developers spending their time and money for a proposal that may ultimately not be approved.

“It is not my place to decide how they [developers] spend their development money for landscaping or architectural designs,” McDaniel said. “Let them make an application. We own our zoning, we own our urban design standards, we own our setbacks; we have a right to those. It [the development] may not make it to Planning and Zoning, or ECC if there are tree removal issues, or to Town Council.”

He moved to approve resolutions of support for both developer applications, but neither motion received a second. Council’s denial of the support resolutions means that the option of HTC affordable senior rental housing is dead for 2017.

Whether Flower Mound will again be determined to be a target community by TDHCA for HTC developers next year will not be known until January 2018.

By setting the benchmark of not allowing HTC developers to submit a project application to Flower Mound staff for consideration, developers of future affordable senior rental housing projects may “knock-on-the-doors” of other more welcoming communities in the area.

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