McKinney senior citizens in need of public housing will soon have a new place that they can call home. The McKinney Housing Authority is set to tear down the 50-year-old Newsome Homes community and rebuild a modern senior housing community as part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Rental Assistance Demonstration program.
The Newsome Homes community, located east of McDonald St., near McMakin St. and Amscott St., was built in the 1960’s. It has not gone through “any significant improvements since then,” according to Levi Wild, President of Sanchez and Associates. Sanchez and Associates is working with the MHA on the redevelopment of this property.
“Right now, this is not a kind living environment,” says Martin Sanchez, CEO of Sanchez and Associates. “They’ve been dealing with significant maintenance issues at Newsome. They’ve been replacing HVAC (heating and air conditioning) systems, and you’ve got mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems that are original in many cases. Most of these homes have single-pane glass windows. Think about what that’s like in in the dead of winter.”
The property began as public housing and is currently owned and operated by the MHA. The MHA has been “spending tons” on maintenance, according to Alonzo Tutson, who is Resident Services Coordinator for MHA. “We’re putting bandages on a huge wound right now,” Tutson says.
“They’ve received 750 service calls in the last 12 months at Newsome,” Wild says. “These homes don’t have a dishwasher. They basically have a sink and a small stove. It’s just the flat out truth that there are people who are in a situation that’s toxic. We can change these people’s lives 180 degrees.”
That change will come through the demolition of the property’s 15 existing buildings and rebuilding a new, state-of-the-art, three-story senior living facility. “What they have now is barracks-style one-floor houses,” Sanchez says. “We’re going to demolish and rebuild new, dignified housing with that meets current building codes.”
“These new units will have Energy Star appliances and double pane windows,” Wild says. “It will be like a modern apartment complex. The distinct difference is the style and look of the buildings.”
The new facility will have two buildings, featuring covered entrances, a library, fitness center, business center, meeting rooms, a supportive services offices, and green spaces with gazebos, BBQ grills, and walking paths. The new units will also be rent-controlled to make it affordable for seniors to live there.
Tutson says the new facility will solve some of the potentially serious issues that exist with the Newsome homes now. “There are a lot of amenities that the residents just don’t have access to right now,” he says. “The community center now is detached. In the new facility, they will be able to stay indoors if they want to. Right now, they can’t get fire trucks and ambulances in there because of the way the streets were designed. Then they can’t get the gurneys through the front door because of the way the doors were built.”
The new facility will have a circular drive and wider doors to alleviate those issues.
The new construction will also ease the maintenance and operation costs for the MHA. “By rebuilding to today’s code, you’re going to have a tremendous reprieve in the operating cost,” Sanchez says. “It’s more energy efficient. Everybody wins.”
In addition to rebuilding with modern technology and building methods, the new property at the Newsome community will also expand to serve more of McKinney’s seniors. There are currently 84 units in the Newsome community and the new development will contain 180 units.
“There’s been a dire need for affordable housing in McKinney and we thought this program would be a great opportunity,” Tutson says. “We’re one of only three housing authorities in the state of Texas to receive funding.”
The Rental Assistance Program is a new HUD program designed to rehabilitate and rebuild existing facilities. “The RAD program takes deteriorating public housing communities and redevelops the property,” Wild says. Newsome’s existing residents will be relocated at no cost for a period of 12 months through a voucher system provided by HUD. Sanchez says they should be able to have residents back into the new Newsome facility within 18 months.
The impact of this project can be far-reaching. At Tuesday’s McKinney City Council meeting, Sanchez and Associates conducted a presentation describing the plans for the new Newsome. Many of the residents of the Newsome homes attended the council meeting and spoke about the importance of having affordable housing for seniors and the impact that affordable housing has had on their lives. The council members later unanimously approved a rezoning request that helps to move this project forward.
Tutson says that he sees this project as the first step in a revitalization of that area. “It’s more than just providing homes for our seniors,” he says. “There’s also the opportunity for more support within the community. I see a grocery story there and a drug store too. District 1 has the most potential of all of the four districts in McKinney. We were just looking to give a vibrant, shot in the arm to the community.”
Larry Robinson, McKinney’s former Chief of Police and City Manager, spoke in support of the project during council meeting on Tuesday. He told the council that projects like this are difficult to bring to fruition but the benefits can be great. “I see a several block area that will be improved by this,” he told the council.
The project also means a great deal to those who’ve shepherded this project over its 18 months in development. “It reminds me of why I got into this,” Wild says. “It brings it home for us. It’s been one of the most satisfying experiences of my career.”
Tutson agrees. “My heart has always been, and always will be, in that community, east of Highway 5,” he says. “It is very, very overwhelming in a positive way. It was difficult for me to keep my composure listening to council the other night. It was heart-warming for me. I have never seen a community come together when it comes to volunteering their time and their resources to those that won’t be able to repay them with more than a thank you. That makes it all worthwhile. It was overwhelming.”
Sanchez says he feels that this project shows that the people in McKinney care about their past. “It’s not just about the new stuff in McKinney,” he says. “We helped to bridge the disenfranchisement gap between new McKinney and old McKinney. And now they’re reaching back to take care of McKinney’s history. This is why this is a cool place to live.”