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Church seeks senior housing

Leaders of the Boulder City United Methodist Church have a project in the works that they feel will benefit many in the community but understand those who may have concerns.

Monday, Pastor Kimber Govett, along with her fellow building team members, Tati Johnisee and Barbara Paulsen, discussed not only the plan to build low-income housing for senior citizens but how that project evolved from the original desire to build a church of their own.

The church, which was organized in 1999, has called five different locations home, with the current being the Elaine K. Smith Building, which they rent from the city. In 2006 the church bought a three-acre piece of land from the city on Utah Street on the south side of the cemetery going toward the landfill with the intent to build a church. They paid $195,000 for the land and over the next few years spent an additional $300,000 upgrading the land, including a 54-inch culvert to assist with drainage and to meet the flood control guidelines.

Then, the 2008 financial crisis hit, which brought the project to a halt. At that point, the church decided to switch its fundraising to a benevolence fund to assist congregation members impacted by the financial crisis. There were other roadblocks since then, including COVID. But now, the church is looking to move forward with updated plans.

Senior housing needed

In the 2020 census, it showed that that 38% of Boulder City’s population was 60 and over — nearly double the state average. Also increasing in recent years are building costs and rent.

“This shows that many people are in need of housing,” Paulsen said. “Housing is a major crisis that almost every community in this country is facing. In talking to people in and outside of our congregation, we know that housing for seniors is a big concern in Boulder City and has been for a while now.”

Paulsen said over time the plan for the three acres of land has changed. They would still like to have a permanent place for their members but as she pointed out, “Living out our faith is not being in that building. It’s being outside that building, serving our community.”

The plan now is to offer a 50-unit complex for seniors 55 and older. The property would include an area for Methodist worshippers that could be used by others in the community as well as an indoor chapel for those attending services at the cemetery.

Who’s eligible

Those living in the units, most of which are slated to be one-bedroom apartments, must meet income standards (meaning they don’t make too much) with rent being no more than 30% of their monthly income. Anyone can apply, however, someone in the unit must be 55 or older. There will be a limit on the number of people living in any unit or visiting, there would background checks, credit checks, rental history as well as criminal and substance abuse background checks. Residents will sign a lease and just like any other rental property if major or ongoing infractions persist, they could be evicted.

“This would first be marketed to Boulder City residents because it’s intended for our seniors,” Govett said. “We have prayerfully considered every aspect of this project in a way that it will serve everyone involved. Research has shown that this type of affordable housing project does not decrease property value. I know that was one concern that was raised. We want to make sure we live by our faith to do unto others as we’d want done to our own selves.”

The cost of the 50-unit complex carries an estimated price tag of under $20 million (the church would pay for its worshipping area and pay rent to the LLC). Technically it would be a three-story building, which Boulder City has allowed but it’s been rare. Paulsen said that from the Utah Street side, it will look as if it’s just two stories high but from the cemetery it will be three stories with the first being the church/community gathering place. This is because the land sits lower than the street and its incline toward the back of the property on the south side. A height variance will be required from the city.

Church’s pledge

Paulsen said another concern expressed by some has been how do they know the complex will not be sold in a few years and thus lose its senior living status. When they apply to get tax credits or any Clark County Housing project fundings it lists it as senior living. The federal government will monitor that status for decades while local agencies will monitor that for 30 years.

“We have no plans of changing that but obviously it’s hard to make guarantees 30 years from now,” Paulsen said.

Govett agreed and added, “We have made a commitment to the city to offer affordable senior housing for the life of the property. Yes, the church owns the property but it’s really owned by the Desert Southwest Conference of the United Methodist Church. They do have a say in the usage of the property and they have approved to provide housing as well as a place to worship.”

In terms of funding, it will be done primarily through federal tax credits as well as housing funds through Clark County via grants and private investment. Once the tax credits are received, construction must start within a certain amount of time. If all goes as well, they are hoping work will begin in late 2025 with a completion date 12-18 months later.

But first things first

The church was scheduled to appear on the city’s planning and zoning commission agenda this week but last week, the church requested it be pulled.

“They will only give money to shovel-ready projects,” Paulsen said of grants and tax credits. “If it’s unsure whether or not a project will proceed, they’re not going to give you the money. So, getting the zoning changed this summer is very important.”

The zoning they are requesting is for multi-family compared to the current single-family zoning. They said that alone has caused some concerns for nearby residents, who thought it means adults and children, which is not the case.

“The most important message is that we are making a commitment for affordable senior housing for the life of the property and that our faith calls us to make sure this project enhances the lives of everyone involved or touched by the project,” Govett said. “I understand the concerns and we are listening. We care about all the neighbors in this location. This is the commitment we’ve made and we’re not going to change the property in any negative way at any point in time.”

As for the decision to withdraw from the P&Z meeting, Govett said they wanted to step back and ensure they were listening to the concerns of their neighbors and take more time to spend with them. They have an email set up at bouldercityumc@gmail.com for those who have questions. They are also exploring another zoning code that is specifically for senior housing, which they are working on with the city. They are looking to be on the July 17 P&Z meeting with the hopes of getting it approved by council the next month.

Govett said while there has been some concerns and pushback, they have also received a lot of positive feedback from local organizations and residents who have expressed the need for senior housing.

“The thing that has hurt us the most has been misinformation,” Paulsen said. “This is why we wanted to have more time to talk to people. We want people to make their decision based on correct information rather than hearsay.”

An LLC will be formed to manage the property with two partners, that being the church and the developer. Rent received will be split between the two after the costs of a property manager and maintenance. Funds to the church will go back into the property or other community projects or organizations the church supports such a Lend a Hand, youth drama program, Emergency Aid and the senior center.

“I told our congregation yesterday to remember that we are a church, not a bank,” Govett said. “What God gives us, we give back to the community.”

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