Low-income seniors can find place to call home in Henderson

For rent: spacious one- and two-bedroom apartments with all the extras — and then some — from about $500 to $600 a month, utilities included.

Prospective residents must be low-income senior citizens to live at the Smith Williams Senior Apartment Complex, situated on city land at Lake Mead Boulevard and Ivy Street in the older area of Henderson.

But you had better move fast because though new renters won’t be able to move in until next week, the 80-unit complex is already filling up.

The public-private partnership is the Nevada Housing Division’s first faith-based supportive housing tax credit project in Southern Nevada, said Frank Hawkins, a former Las Vegas city councilman who is executive director of the Community Development Programs Center of Nevada.

State, county and Henderson officials on Tuesday were given a private tour of the $20 million-plus complex, which was financed largely through private lenders.

Henderson Community Baptist’s pastor, the Rev. Sam Roberson, was inspired to have his congregation sponsor the project during a visit to the historic Wheat Street Baptist Church in Atlanta, which sits in the shadow of a 17-story senior apartment complex the 140-year-old Georgia church helped build.

"That impressed me," Roberson said. "I made up my mind I would do the same here."

In 2003, Roberson connected with Hawkins, a lifelong Las Vegan who spent seven years as a running back in the National Football League after starring at Western High School and the University of Nevada, Reno.

Construction was delayed for years and nearly scrapped for good when the housing and tax credit markets collapsed. But Roberson and his congregation were persistent, Hawkins said.

"They just wouldn’t let it go," he said. "They were determined to make it happen."

Other people credited with seeing it through are former and current Henderson Mayors James Gibson and Andy Hafen, respectively, with the City Council and state and county officials.

While Roberson hopes to build a second church on eight acres nearby, Hawkins made it clear any eligible person can rent an apartment regardless of beliefs.

After investors fled Nevada in the wake of the housing collapse, a lender was found far from Las Vegas.

The Royal Bank of Canada put in about $10.2 million as an equity investor, taking advantage of tax credits the federal government awards each state every year. To qualify for the tax credit, the bank agreed to restrict it to low-income seniors.

Stearns Bank stepped in with a $6.9 million loan. The city chipped in $1.25 million, Clark County nearly $1 million from its Low Income Housing Trust Fund and the state Housing Division $350,000. All three entities used federal money dedicated to low-income housing.

The three-story complex, which has a clubhouse, swimming pool and spa, weight room, movie room and library, is open to seniors who are at least 55 years old and make less than 40 percent of the median average for the area, or roughly $27,300 or less per year.

One-bedroom units rent for less than $500 and two-bedroom units for less than $600, which is significantly lower than the current market.

Contact reporter Doug McMurdo at dmcmurdo@reviewjournal.com or 702-224-5512.

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