One of the lessons learned from the private sale of the Silver Oaks property, and the subsequent new owners announcement that they were converting the property from senior housing to new student housing, was the obvious conclusion that we needed more senior housing in Kent.
In hindsight it shouldn’t have been surprising that a developer would look at the senior housing property adjacent to the Kent State campus and recognize the opportunity to build new student housing at such a prime location — but it took most everyone by surprise, and the City along with many others in the community (including Kent State University) rallied to try to buy the seniors some move out time and to ease their transition into new housing.
It was a stressful couple of months but once everyone was relocated and things settled down, the City started knocking on developers doors looking for a little help to back fill behind the loss of the affordable senior housing units that Silver Oaks provided.
The key word was “affordable” senior housing — it turns out that there’s a fair amount of mid-upper end senior housing around our area but there’s precious little affordable housing for seniors that are on tight, fixed incomes. I learned that’s because in order to have affordable rental rates, they have to be affordable to build — and those complexes are not particularly cheap to construct, so as a result developers will only venture down the senior housing path if there’s some significant outside tax breaks or compensation upfront that essentially subsidizes the construction which in turn allows the developers to offer those elusive affordable rents.
The good news is that there are Ohio tax credits out there to help stimulate/subsidize the senior housing market — the bad news is everybody and their brother is trying to get those credits so each year about 1 in 4 project requests actually get funded.
Following on the heels of the Silver Oaks closure, we started working with the builders/owners of the 4 Seasons property in Kent, the NRP Group, and a local developer who owns property adjacent to the Kent Ridge at Golden Pond property to plan a new senior complex adjacent to Kent Ridge. The plans fell in place quickly, partnership agreements were signed, and a preliminary site plan for the project was approved by the Kent Planning Commission.
The only thing missing was the make or break Ohio Tax Credit. The tax credit application cycle worked to our favor and we had the time we needed to put together what we thought was a highly competitive project proposal, including a $250,000 investment by Kent City Council out of our Community Housing Improvement Program (CHIP) to demonstrate the City’s commitment to the project.
This morning (April 11th) the State sent word that our efforts paid off. NRP got the tax credits they needed, in the amount of $1,188,595, in tax credit reserves from OHFA.
The State noted that the City’s willingness to make available $250,000 in our Community Housing Improvement Program (CHIP) to help underwrite portions of the project was a key factor in the award of the tax credits. It turns out that there are 4 different tax credit allocation pools and the “Four Seasons at Golden Pond” project received its tax credit allocation under the “Maximizing Outcomes Pool” (MOP). The tax credits in this pool are allocated in part based on evidence that the project has “substantial participation and commitment of resources by multiple long-term partners” and it achieves “multiple public policy goals.”
To that end, the City’s participation was instrumental in satisfiying those requirements and directly contributed to the award. Out of 102 applications only 37 were awarded, so we’re thrilled to be on the receiving end of this good news.
Now we can re-group with the developers and plan a path forward to build seniors in Kent quality, new, and most importantly affordable housing.