Complex to bring senior housing relief

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 20, 2001

Efforts to create more housing opportunities for seniors in Albert Lea continue with a $2.

Tuesday, March 20, 2001

Efforts to create more housing opportunities for seniors in Albert Lea continue with a $2.4 million, 50-unit apartment complex due for construction this summer.

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Planned or Albert Lea’s northwest corner, the project will offer more rent-reduced senior housing thanks to some tax assistance from the city.

&uot;Senior housing and affordable housing in general are concerns the city has been working on for some time,&uot; said Albert Lea City Manager Paul Sparks. &uot;I think this project looks like another step in the right direction.&uot;

According to Twin Cities developer Michael Swenson, the complex will consist of 12 one-bedroom units and 38 two-bedroom units. The building’s design will be similar to Swenson’s recently-completed Oak Park Place on Bridge Avenue. That project, which includes several Alzheimer’s units, offers more intensive assisted living services.

The city has initiated a tax-increment finance (TIF) plan to help the project mitigate construction costs. In exchange, the developer has agreed to offer 20 percent of the apartments, or 10 units, to people of moderate income. The other 40 units will be market-rate apartments.

Sparks said the city can only offer TIF assistance to projects that offer something for the good of the community. In this case, the public interest is served by affordable housing.

&uot;The request came to use because of the expenses associated with extending utilities and site preparation. Those two activities are very expensive and could prevent the project from going ahead,&uot; Sparks said. &uot;By creating a TIF district, we can remove the impediments to the developer and help relieve our housing crunch.&uot;

TIF districts involve capturing a portion of property taxes over a period of 10 to 15 years to reimburse the developer for documented costs when the project is completed. The city rarely provides up-front capital for private developments, Sparks said. TIF districts are a more appropriate alternative for taxpayer money.

Development consultant Ed Tschida, who prepares TIF plans for the city, said assisted living and semi-assisted living projects are becoming increasingly popular all over the state, especially in smaller cities looking to retain their residents.

&uot;It’s a great concept because when seniors move into these complexes, the housing market loosens up and creates opportunities for young working families,&uot; Tschida said. &uot;The city gets the best of both worlds because it keeps its seniors in town and attracts young families to its single-family neighborhoods.&uot;