Chino Valley council ponders need for affordable housing complex

CHINO VALLEY - The Chino Valley Town Council Thursday showed initial interest in an Idaho developer's proposal to build an affordable housing complex northwest of Highway 89 and Road 1 North.

But the council stopped short of committing to anything it finds out more about whether the town needs workforce housing at this location and others.

Clay McReynolds, development consultant with Pacific West Companies of Boise, Idaho, said his company wants to develop Vista Verde Apartments, a 56-unit apartment building on 5.02 acres near the intersection, for young working class families and senior citizens.

The energy-efficient complex would include 24 two-bedroom apartments, washer and dryer hookups, a 2,500-square-foot community building, and a playground and swimming pool.

"The site has good visibility and is within walking distance of a grocery store, pharmacy and post office," he said.

McReynolds suggests building half of the apartment units using some federal tax credit money. He estimates the development in Chino will cost $10.8 million, including $6.5 million for construction.

Of that $10.8 million, $8.5 million will come from selling tax credits and the final $1.5 million from a government loan.

Half of Pacific West's 70 housing developments are in California, while the rest are scattered across six other Western states. In Arizona, Pacific West has complexes in Globe, Flagstaff and Taylor, which is near Snowflake.

Pacific West determines a tenant's rent for an apartment based on a percentage of median income that is adjusted depending on family size.

"There is a consistently strong need for affordable housing in Arizona," McReynolds said. "Housing should be less than 30 percent of one's income. In Arizona, 45 percent of renters and 34 percent of homeowners pay above 30 percent."

On Thursday, the council agreed to give Pacific West a basic letter of interest from the town with the caveat that, at this time, no one can use the document to seek investment or lending money to build on the site.

"Council should request more information from Pacific West before you support something like this at all," Town Attorney Jim Musgrove said.

Pacific West also will receive a will-serve letter from the town showing that Chino Valley is willing to extend its sewer main to the property, and a third document permitting the land's zoning provided the town approves a conditional use permit.

McReynolds said his next step on Monday is to apply for a loan from the Arizona Department of Housing and a conditional use permit to rezone the property.

But his ultimate goal is for the town council to ratify a comprehensive affordable housing plan for the site.

Acting Town Manager Jerry Stricklin said first the town will conduct a neighborhood meeting to gauge adjacent residents' interest in Pacific West's proposal for the property.

He added that evaluating a market study would determine the need for affordable housing.

Councilwoman Pat Purdin agreed, saying Chino Valley needs affordable housing, but she wants town staff to take a comprehensive look at whether other parts of the community also require help.

Councilman Ron Romley said he is concerned whether property rates would decline and crime would increase near 89 and Road 1 North if the developer builds the complex.

"If this matter moves forward, we want you to show what your facilities look like after five years, because this is a long-term commitment," he said.

McReynolds assured Romley that tax incentives for the project are independent of Chino Valley and the town would not pay for any part of it.

"We want to create a safe environment for children. We have tenant screening and credit screening," McReynolds said. "If a tenant has a criminal history, he or she will not live there."

Contact the reporter at dcook@prescottaz.com