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September 4, 2015

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Las Vegas city officials moving ahead on affordable housing project

First phase of project would construct 60 residential units

Updated Wednesday, April 18, 2012 | 12:19 p.m.

Proposed housing project

Click to enlarge photo

Bob Coffin

A blighted shopping center in central Las Vegas will get new life with a 196-unit affordable housing project for low-income and older residents, thanks to action taken Wednesday by the Las Vegas City Council.

The three-phased project, which is being pushed by two former city councilmen, Michael McDonald and Frank Hawkins, is expected to get under way by September at 1501 N. Decatur Boulevard on vacant land on Laurelhurst and West Moreland drives. Hawkins estimated the entire project, which could take about three years to build, would cost about $33 million.

Despite a staff recommendation to deny $3.9 million in redevelopment funds for the project, the council, meeting as the city’s Redevelopment Agency, voted 6-1 to approve funds for the first phase of construction on the project, expected to cost $11.2 million. The developers will pay $1 per year for 75 years to lease the land, which belongs to the city.

The council mirrored its support for the matter when the matter came up about an hour later at its regular council meeting.

The only no vote was Councilman Bob Coffin, who said he had not had the time to thoroughly look at the project and its implications. He said the cost per unit appeared too high and said that perhaps the city should have bid out the project.

"My gut tells me we're spending too much," Coffin said.

The main objection to the project by the city’s staff was that McDonald, who sat on the council from 1995 to 2003, didn’t have sufficient experience as a developer and that the cost per unit to the city for the first 40 units would amount to $97,975, according to Bill Arent, the city’s director of economic and urban development.

Arent also said the better use for the property would be commercial, rather than residential, because it was a former shopping center. He also said there was no budget provided for future phases of the project.

However, McDonald, the developer, said he had brought on Hawkins as a consultant. Hawkins, who served on the council from 1991 to 1995, said he has been involved in several affordable housing projects, involving about 1,400 units.

Hawkins went over the proposed project and explained that the calculation Arent used to say what the cost would be per unit didn’t take into consideration that the entire project would be for affordable housing. And once all three phases were built, the cost per unit of the 165 units would be closer to $14,000, Hawkins said.

Several council members expressed interest in moving forward with the project to improve the neighborhood.

“Nothing is going to happen unless it comes from us,” said Councilman Steve Ross. “I don’t see a lot of people knocking down doors to build something there.”

Councilman Ricki Barlow said the project dates back to 2005 and needed to move forward. Barlow pointed out that the city has used development funds to make improvements in the downtown and also needed to spend redevelopment funds in blighted neighborhoods.

Phase 1 of the project would feature 60 units in 10 six-plex buildings and a clubhouse and would be completed in about a year, Hawkins said.

The second phase would feature a four-story building containing 72 senior units and a clubhouse and would begin about a year from now, he said.

The final phase would be 64 senior units in a four-story complex and would begin the following year, he said..

Besides the $3.9 million in grant funds, the project was expected to get $7.1 million in state housing tax credits.

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