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More to cost of Almond Court than meets the eye
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You’ve got to love some newspaper reporters.

It is against their nature to report on anything unless they can show there is conflict.

Such is the case with the Almond Court subsidized low-income senior apartment complex dedicated on Monday on North Union Road in Manteca.

The Modesto Bee had to give the story “tension” so they found a real estate agent who brokers apartments in the Northern San Joaquin Valley – 100 complexes in the last 20 years – to essentially say it wasn’t the most cost-effective way to spend taxpayers’ money. He noted – correctly – that it costs a developer $135,000 per unit to build “much larger and nicer” apartments as opposed to the $217,500 per unit cost for the 40 apartments at Almond Court.

Then the reporter tossed in the caveat that they could have bought three small renovated homes for what they paid for the construction of one “dinky” apartment.

It’s good to question the status quo but it would be nice if folks bothered to put it into context.

Subsidized apartment complexes use tax credits which means the approval process involves a layer of government agencies that is insane. It adds to the cost. There is also federal dollars involved which means prevailing wage must be paid to construct the complex. Try to build an apartment complex with three to five times the hoops to jump through and then do so at prevailing wages for $135,000 a unit.

While it is true that right now the amount of money spent would buy 120 “small” homes that could be renovated, the project was started while home prices were on the way up and were literally forcing low-income senior to choose between medicine, eating properly and paying power bills after they made the rent payments. Many lived in what graciously could be called dumps.

Seniors obviously would have to maintain a home if one was secured for them and then rented to them at 30 percent of their income.  Actually, with that caveat in the federal and state low-income housing programs a senior grossing $900 a month in income would only be able to pay $300 toward the mortgage payment on a small home. Prices aren’t that low by a long shot. Then there is the issue of energy efficiency as well as community that a complex offers senior citizens.

It would be cost prohibitive over time for a non-profit like Eden Housing to maintain 120 homes that includes yard upkeep, roofs, plumbing, electrical and so forth and keep rents at the federally required 30 percent of several household incomes.  A new complex has built-in advantages.

Quite frankly the costs of “dinky” homes are more per square foot than larger homes. A real estate agent worth their salt should know that. This is why McMansions were so popular with builders as they were the most profitable per square foot.

Making the space bigger serves no purpose for one or two seniors. It also is that much more area to heat and cool.

Also low-income subsidized senior complexes have to be located by federal rules near shopping, amenities and transportation. The requirement makes sense, if you think about it. Scattered homes don’t meet that objective.

Construction of low-income complexes has to be solid and attractive so as not to raise the wrath of nearby neighbors. By doing it that way, it paves the way for more low-income housing.

Explaining some of the obstacles and realities that builders and operators of subsidized complexes for low-income seniors are up against would have provided context for the dollar difference as well as get people to maybe realize how mandated government rules can escalate the price of everything from housing to simple day-to-day living.

A private sector builder doesn’t have to pay prevailing wages because they don’t take federal dollars. Subsidized projects won’t work without federal help so they have no choice in the matter.

The bottom line is Manteca now has over 150 subsidized senior units in three complexes that can make a difference in the lives of retired people who find themselves with low, limited income because they toiled at honest work all of their lives that didn’t provide big retirement dollars, they paid all their bills even during hard times, or perhaps illness or raising grandchildren interfered with their ability to set aside money to supplement what is often simply Social Security.