Affordable housing project planned for DP Road

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By Tris DeRoma

A 70-unit affordable housing project is in the works on DP Road. If approved, the complex will be located the north side of the road, near the Canyon Rim Trail, between the Knights of Columbus building and the Los Alamos County Fire Department’s training station.

County Council is expected to consider the project Dec. 19. If the developer is successful in getting funding for the project, the county would donate the land, which is worth $1.6 million. 

Community Development Director Paul Andrus said the project part of the county’s efforts to eliminate Los Alamos County’s housing shortage.

“For a community this size, we’ve had this really wide range of housing need,” he said. “This is an opportunity for the county to partner with a developer who’s been doing this for years and years, and has shown an interest in this local market.”

The project will depend on whether or not Bethel’s application is selected for funding by the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority.

Unlike other developers that have projects in Los Alamos County, this developer, Bethel Development Inc., rely specifically on raising funds for its projects through a federal low income tax housing program which is managed by the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority.

In order to qualify for the project, the developer has to have a definitive plan. Andrus said. The state awards those tax credits, which are then used by the developer to raise the funds to construct the project. The developer plans to submit its application by Jan. 12.

The project will be a mix of one, two and three bedroom units. Households that would qualify for an apartment must have an income below 60 percent of the area’s median income.

Bethel plans to call the complex Canyon Walk Apartments and it will have a management team. The plans include a clubhouse. The developer also plans to provide case management services on the premises. That would include financial services, tutoring, marriage counseling and family counseling.

“We’re pleased. I think this is a really good opportunity in the community to address this need. The housing market’s changed so quickly that a lot of our workforce who aren’t making as much money are essentially being forced to live elsewhere and drive up,” Andrus said.

Andrus said the location would be an ideal spot for those coming to live and work in Los Alamos.

“I can live in that apartment, walk to Smith’s, I can walk to my job if I worked downtown, I can walk to the bus station, and I can walk to the Canyon Rim Trail, because the trail will essentially be right outside the complex,” Andrus said.

This is the county’s and Bethel Development’s second try at establishing an affordable housing project in Los Alamos County. The company first tried three years ago, but at the time, there wasn’t a high enough demand for an affordable housing project in the county, and so Bethel’s application to build an affordable-housing project in Los Alamos didn’t qualify with the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority.

One of the factors that brought Bethel Development back to Los Alamos County is that the county has a .2 percent vacancy rate.

“Now that we’ve risen to a critical need, primarily based on our vacancy rate, that’s what brought them back to town,” Los Alamos County Economic Development Director Joan Ahlers said.

Vacancy rate is just one of the factors that are considered. If Bethel qualifies, the DP Road project will be a complex devoted exclusively to affordable housing.

“Anyone can live in their properties, any income levels,” Andrus said. “This building, if you’re making too much money, you’re not eligible to live there. Therefore, it’s not a direct, apples to apples, direct competition concept.”

Ahlers also noted that Bethel is still in the process of submitting its application to the state and that Bethel’s plans aren’t a “done deal.”

“We are going to remain optimistic and hopeful,” Ahlers said.