MACO gears newest plan for low-income apartments toward seniors

Monday, July 2, 2012

The first-round plan for family apartments didn't pass muster with some city and state officials earlier this year. Now, the company that specializes in low-income housing is hoping state housing officials will take a closer look at a revised plan that calls for building a $7 million apartment complex that exclusively targets seniors in Cape Girardeau.

MACO Development already has the earlier plan's toughest critic on board -- Cape Girardeau City Council member Mark Lanzotti. Now, company executives with the Clarkton, Mo.-based firm hope his support -- and the full support of the council -- will help persuade the Missouri Housing Development Commission that the development is worthy of millions in low-income housing tax credits that the project's future relies on.

Also adding to the company's optimism: Joplin, Mo., won't automatically receive 40 percent of those credits this cycle, as it did the last one, to help rebuild housing that was demolished by that tornado-ravaged Missouri city.

"Now that's behind us and, with Mr. Lanzotti on board, we're more optimistic than we were the last time," said Jason Maddox, MACO's executive vice president. "Still, there are a lot more projects than there are credits. We just want to remind the commission that Southeast Missouri is still here and has needs too."

Earlier this year, state housing officials did not approve MACO's application, meaning the project planned for the west-central part of the city wouldn't happen this year. The company had intended to build an initial 48 units targeted to families on 12 acres at the north end of Silver Springs Road near Spruce Street.

But the company took an application that included a resolution of support from the council, which was only passed last October by a 4-2 vote with Lanzotti and Councilman John Voss voting against. The commission won't even consider applications that don't have the endorsement of city leaders and Maddox said the opposition "certainly did not help anything."

Lanzotti, who represents the west-central Ward 5, said at the time that the proposal would go in an area that already has a high concentration of rental properties, which would add more stresses to infrastructure and traffic. Lanzotti also wasn't comfortable about what he believes a government-subsidized apartment complex would mean to the marketplace. Those subsidies would have allowed MACO to only charge $415 a month, which Lanzotti felt would create an unfair advantage over other private-sector landlords.

But since that time, MACO has changed the scope of the project and inserted a requirement that tenants be at least 55 years or older. That alleviated Lanzotti's major concerns, although he still finds such projects that hinge on government subsidies distasteful. MACO updated the council at a recent city council meeting, in which Lanzotti agreed to support the project in its current form.

The age restriction removed the likelihood of a large increase in traffic that could have been caused by full families with several drivers, Lanzotti said. He also pointed out that if the project didn't require a council resolution, city leaders would have had no say over what goes onto the property that has a zoning designation that would have allowed either project.

Seniors also don't tend to be disruptive, Lanzotti said, meaning it would not disturb other nearby residents. The narrower market also would be less problematic to other nearby landlords, he said.

"Given the fact that it will be a senior development, it's safe to make the assumption that traffic will be less," Lanzotti said. "You're not having any keggers in senior apartments. They'll be quieter. And so the impact on the neighborhood considering the age restriction will be significantly less than it would have under the previous development that had no age restriction."

Maddox said the new proposal would go on the same property, which is owned by local developer Larry Haertling, and be made up of 10 buildings with 54 units -- 14 one bedroom apartments and 40 two bedrooms. Rent for the one-bedroom units (890 square feet) would range from $390 to $405 monthly and the two-bedroom units (1,137 square feet) would run from $430 to $445 a month.

To qualify, one person could make no more than $22,980 and a two-person income could not exceed $26,220. How much the company will ask for in tax credits has yet to be determined, Maddox said.

Applications to the commission are due Sept. 21 and the commission will decide which projects from across the state make the cut in December.

But Maddox said there is a need for more senior housing in the Cape Girardeau area. MACO has built three such senior apartment complexes in the past, and there is a waiting list that is 80 names long.

Roy Jones, the housing coordinator for the Community Caring Council, agreed. But it's not just seniors that lack affordable housing, he said, it's everyone with a lower income.

"But there are certainly plenty of seniors that need housing at a subsidized rate," Jones said. "I hope the project gets approved. I'm sure having the political support this time will help."


Pertinent address:

Silver Springs Road and Spruce Street, Cape Girardeau, MO

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