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$9.1 million senior housing project approved

A $9.1 million senior housing project called Buckeye Fields was approved Wednesday morning by the Ohio Housing Authority.

The project, which will include 64 homes on 65 acres near the Washington County Home, will be built to house low-income Washington County seniors.

Flite Freimann, executive director of Washington County Job and Family Services, said the project was applied for last year and denied. On Wednesday morning, the board of the OHFA released the results of their approved projects, and Buckeye Fields was one of the 37 approved.

For the project to go through, a 9 percent tax credit had to be approved, which would equal about $8.1 million. Freimann said $600,000 for the project will come from a grant and a loan will be obtained for the last $400,000.

The tax credit will go to Buckeye Hills Support Services, the nonprofit organization that will work with area agencies. It leased the 65 acres of land from the Washington County Commission for 55 years.

“We can sell (the tax credit) for cash to run the project,” Freimann said. “It will bring in investors who will be able to use those funds to help us.”

The project update will be discussed before the Washington County Commission during today’s meeting.

BHSS applied for a grant from the Ohio Housing Authority in order to finance the 64-unit project. The grant requires the partners to take on a private investor that would help finance the construction. In return, the investor would receive a guaranteed 9 percent return on their investment over 15 years.

Four years ago, discussions about possibly building more senior housing began. Two years ago, a plan started coming together. The plan was submitted to the Ohio Housing Authority two years ago, but it was rejected.

Freimann said the housing will be unique in that it will have wraparound services that other senior living centers don’t have. He said the Area Agency on Aging can give residents access to health care. The OSU Extension can give them access to nutrition. A communal area in the housing development would give them access to social networking.

Area agencies who have already signed on to participate are Washington County Job and Family Services, Washington-Morgan Community Action, the O’Neill Center, Area Agency on Aging, Ohio Means Jobs and Adult Protective Services.

The rent for each one-story home is expected to be $341 per month across the board, regardless of income. The project plans include the addition of solar panels, which will save 30 percent a year on conventional utilities, said Rick Hindman, BHSS executive director.

“We will meet as a BHSS board on Friday and look at the next thing…bring in investors, tie down financing and work on bid documents. We will bring in local contractors where possible and try to pay a prevailing wage,” Freimann said.

The homes themselves are modular and pre-built, although there will have to be site prep, including leveling the ground, pouring concrete and tapping into water, gas and plumbing.

“We hope to start site prep this summer,” Freimann said. “The goal is the spring to summer 2021 to have units being built and occupied.”

Hindman said some of the work plan still needs to be detailed out, but “it’s really just site prep and then bring in the modular units and place them on the property.”

“They can begin living in units before the construction period is completed,” he added. “It makes the construction process much quicker.”

He said the homes will be trucked in and placed on a foundation. This project is the biggest thing he’s been a part of, he said.

“We’ll establish a model that can be used in rural areas throughout Southeast Ohio, throughout the state and throughout the country,” he said. “Once we open the door to this, these are projects that rural areas haven’t been able to capitalize on.”

He said many seniors go into a nursing home because they don’t have support at home.

“If they were in a congregate setting (like Buckeye Fields), they wouldn’t have to go into an institution,” Hindman said. “They just need support to stay in home. We can support them more readily there and we can bring services to them.”

Michele Newbanks can be reached at mnewbanks@mariettatimes.com.

At a glance:

•Funding for Buckeye Fields senior living center was approved Wednesday.

•Houses will be built on 65 acres of land near the Washington County Home.

•This is a $9.1 million project.

• About 64 houses will be available for low-income seniors.

•Area agencies will have services available on-site for residents.

Source: Times research.

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