Written by The Business Journal Staff
Located near Sierra Avenue and Highway 168, the senior community will be operated by Innovative Development and Living Solutions of California (IDLS), a new local non-profit community development corporation headed by Michael and Marisa Sigala.
The non-profit status, an anomaly in the local senior housing industry, allowed the Sigalas to seek unique financing options for the venture, and due to the project’s commitment to house lower income seniors in an underserved population, Magnolia Crossing will be the first project of its kind nationwide to be financed in part by a New Market Tax Credit (NMTC).
The NMTC program was created by Congress to attract capital to low-income communities by giving private investors a federal tax credit for investments made in projects in economically distressed areas. US Bank invested $3.5 million toward the Magnolia Crossing project in exchange for the tax credit.
While the $3.5 million from US Bank appears as a loan, Michael Sigala said it will function like a grant that won’t need to be paid back. In addition, the City of Clovis contributed a three-acre parcel of land, which is valued at $500,000, to the project.
Andrew Haussler, the city’s community and economic development director, said the city doesn’t expect payment for the property, which was set aside by the former redevelopment agency years ago specifically for a low-income housing project.
Remaining funding for the project is being provided by Northern California Community Loan Fund, Capital Impact Partners, Fresno CDFI and the Quiring Corp. Paul Halajian Architects, Broussard Associates Landscape Architects and senior living management consultants Peer Services are also involved.
“This project costs $10 million altogether, but with $4 million in equity, we only need to pay back the $6 million,” Sigala said. “That’s how we can offer a discount to residents.”
While many view Clovis as an affluent community, Haussler said Clovis has many moderate-income and low-income residents as well. Among the senior population in Clovis, 7 percent is living in poverty, Haussler said. In Fresno, that number jumps to 12.6 percent of seniors living in poverty. Magnolia Crossing, Haussler added, would accommodate seniors in need of assisted living from all areas, not just Clovis.
In order for a project to qualify as a NMTC investment, it needs to be in census tracts where the individual poverty rate is at least 20 percent or where the median family income does not exceed 80 percent of the area median.
The need for senior housing throughout the Central Valley is great, Haussler said. In Clovis, he said the median age has steadily increased over the last decade and currently sits at 34.4. According to U.S. census data collected in 2015, Clovis is home to 11,750 residents age 65 and older.
“We have quite a few senior living communities in Clovis, but most are convalescent in nature and none have rent assistance like this,” Haussler said. “We have other housing options for low-income seniors, like apartments, but none of those offer assisted living, which some of them need. Magnolia Crossing will provide a system of care where the seniors will be well taken care of somewhere that is high quality and affordable.”
The 48-units community will be comprised of three 16-unit homes. Fourteen of the units will be dedicated to seniors on MediCal and 10 units will be reserved for those with a moderate income — who aren’t on MediCal but don’t have enough to afford housing at traditional for-profit senior communities.
“All the houses will be mixed income and no one will know the difference unless they choose to share it with each other,” Sigala said. “There is currently no mixed income home like this in California.”
Most units will be single occupancy, Sigala said, though each house will have one larger room designed for a couple or two close relatives, like sisters, who wish to share a space. Altogether, the modest community will be able to accommodate 51 seniors.
While the impact is small compared to the growing number of senior citizens, Sigala said it is a start.
“It has to be done,” Sigala said. “The models that are currently out there are not serving enough seniors adequately. This is a model that we can replicate to serve any segment of seniors — veterans, disabled seniors, those who need memory care. This organization can handle that.”
Aside from offering a more affordable option to area seniors, Sigala said Magnolia Crossing will also feel like home.
“What makes it different from other communities is mom isn’t just living down the hall, in her room by herself most of the time,” Sigala said. “All the rooms are connected to the great room, so mom can come out at anytime and be greeted and get what she needs. When she sits down to eat, she will sit at a table just like she would at home, and if mom wants to go in the kitchen and help bake brownies, she can. She doesn’t just get a tray when she wants to eat. This is a home environment. The No. 1 issue affecting seniors today is loneliness and depression, and this design addresses that issue.”
In addition to a homey interior, the community’s design will include pathways, gardens and useable open space. The community is also being billed as environmentally friendly, with a planned mini-solar farm, electric vehicle charging station and other features.
A groundbreaking Wednesday officially launched the project and Sigala said construction should be complete in 10 months, hopefully in time for Christmas.
The project, he said, wouldn’t be possible without the support from the City of Clovis and other partners.
“It’s a true community partnership and it feels great,” Sigala said. “Everyone has been supportive from the ground up. We’re going to continue to be proactive. We want to help address the needs of all seniors and of other disadvantaged groups moving forward.”