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Affordable housing proposal goes to board

by Sharon Carter

The lines of contention are clearly drawn.

The planning commission and the county’s planning staff recommend that one of the Board of County Commissioners’ actions Thursday include approval of the proposed Crestmore Village Apartment complex on Elges Lane.

Owners of eight of Elges’ 14 residences have signed a letter protesting the proposed three-building, 40-unit, affordable housing project. Several have circulated petitions throughout the neighborhood and town of Gardnerville to garner support. They say they have collected nearly 200 signatures.

Resolving the situation, according to commission Chairman Jacques Etchegoyhen, will likely make county history.

“This is the first proposed use in a (master plan-identified) receiving zone (for new development),” Etchegoyhen said. “This is also the first real contentious land use that’s come before us since the new commissioners came on board.”

He said it is an issue which evokes strong emotions on all sides.

“There are some unknowns we’ll have to explore,” he said. “We don’t want to set a poor precedent. I don’t see it being an easy decision one way or the other. I dread it.”

Etchegoyhen and commissioners Steve Weissinger and Kelly Kite said they were reviewing the county’s master plan.

Weissinger said he would first get all the information he could.

“Then I’ll let it unfold at the meeting and make a decision at that time,” Weissinger said.

Kite echoed Weissinger’s sentiments, adding his job was to do what is best for the county.

Commissioner Bernie Curtis, along with the others, reported getting very little input from voters.

Residents on Elges, which is behind the Carson Valley Fair Shopping Center (Scolari’s) in south Gardnerville, fear the proposed affordable housing complex will lower property values, overtax schools, attract undesirables and foster crime in their area.

They are concerns Mike Derloshon of the Housing Division of the Nevada Department of Business and Industry has had to deal with in the past and expects to deal with in the future.

“When many people hear the words ‘low-income housing project,’ they immediately think of government subsidized housing built years ago in New York City, the Bronx, Chicago and Detroit,” said Derloshon. “There’s a real bad connotation.”

Derloshon said many people envision massive, ugly apartment buildings housing hundreds of poor families in near squalor.

“This is not the case, it’s not even old Section 8 housing,” Derloshon said. “There are no rent subsidies. These people pay their own way. They pay their own rent and play by the rules.”

While the Housing Division has had a hand in building 4,988 affordable housing units throughout the state, Derloshon said, it is not government housing.

The state is allotted a certain number of federal IRS tax credits which are issued to developers who qualify to build affordable housing in areas that need it. The developer can use the credits or sell them to major corporations. The credits actually function like income tax charitable deductions, but are used over 10 years. The money the developer gets is the capital he or she uses to build the housing, pay expenses and keep rents low.

“The company that builds and manages the complex is a private enterprise,” he said. “If there aren’t enough qualified residents, their cash flow takes a bath. If it’s not properly maintained, we demand repayment of the IRS tax credits we issued to them.”

Derloshon said 65 percent of the state’s tax credits are allotted for Clark County. Washoe County gets 19 percent. The rest of the state is allotted 16 percent.

“What that works out to are two to three projects for Las Vegas, one project for Washoe County and one rural project per year,” he said. “The Douglas project was chosen out of 26 applications for 1998.”

“What people may not be clear about is the state is in the middle,” Derloshon said. “Our job is to help provide safe, affordable housing to Nevadans. When an application comes in with the support of a county, we do our best to accommodate it.

“We require the housing to be safe, aesthetically pleasing and well-maintained. And we monitor it to keep them that way,” he said.

The Crestmore Village Complex design includes three, two-story buildings, a pool, a clubhouse, an enclosed tot play yard and a half-size basketball court. The apartments will include 16 two-bedroom units which will rent for no more than $554 per month. There will be 12 three-bedroom units with maximum rents of $640 and 12 fou-bedroom units which will rent for no more than $714. All the rents include utilities.

Keith Ruben, of R.O. Anderson Engineering, a Minden engineering firm retained by Picerne Development Co., Crestmore’s developer, said he believes 99 percent of the Elges’ residents’ fears are unfounded.

“Basically, the developer has done everything the county has requested,” Ruben said. “Part of qualifying residents for the complex will be background checks, criminal and credit checks. It’s a quality project and there’s a big market here of people just starting out and seniors.”

The Record-Courier E-mail: rc@tahoe.com

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