Heights council hears request for affordable housing complex

HARKER HEIGHTS — Last year, Harker Heights was the region’s winner for the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs’ competitive tax credit program.

Development plans for an affordable workforce housing complex known as Stillhouse Flats are underway and includes city support to realign Cedar Knob Road.

On Tuesday, another developer expressed interest in constructing an affordable housing project for senior citizens and targeting retired military veterans next to the approved site.

“The structure (of the program) results in us being able to charge them discounted rents — not cheap rents,” said Henry Flores, who represents Austin-based Madhouse Development that is targeting the veteran community.

According to the housing and community affairs’ website, the program awards tax credits “to offset a portion of their federal tax liability in exchange for the production or preservation of affordable rental housing,” which would amount to 9 percent.

In return, Flores said his company would provide discounted rent to qualifying residents if they meet 60 percent of the area’s median income.

“They can’t make too much ... because then they can’t afford the rent,” he said.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Harker Heights’ estimated median household income from 2009 to 2013 was $63,711.

The project Flores is proposing is geared toward individuals 62 years or older, with a preference to retired military veterans.

“It makes a difference in those people’s lives,” he said.

Flores is not affiliated with developers for the Stillhouse Flats project, but said the concept is similar to other properties his company has developed — allowing family members to care for parents nearby, without living under the same roof.

He estimated construction costs would be about $120,000 per unit, and is proposing an application to build up to 120 units.

Though Harker Heights was approved for the affordable workforce housing project last year, Flores said, there is still a possibility for the retired military veterans’ project because no others are like it in the area.

Other factors to scoring are income, demographics, quality of schools and services provided, he said.

With applications due to the state by March 1 for the project, Flores said he is seeking a resolution of support from the city to gain more “points,” for the application.

Another factor in the process would be to seek a $10 reduction in permitting fees to display the city’s contribution for extra points, he said.

“We aren’t asking for any funding, no concessions or anything of that nature,” Flores said.

During Tuesday’s workshop, Councilman Steve Carpenter said he’d like to see a feasibility study and market study before the council makes a decision.

Carpenter said he’d like to know if higher income senior housing in the area would better benefit the city.

“I think we need to discuss it a little bit before we make any decisions on the pros and cons on stuff like this,” he said.