CIBOLO — Nearly five years after the idea of an affordable housing project was brought to the city of Cibolo and about a year after developers broke ground, El Sereno Senior Living is now a home for several residents.
The affordable apartment community, located at 213 Somerset Ave., for seniors 55 years and older celebrated its official grand opening Wednesday with a special ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“When we started meeting with city council and city staff, it was a vision, an idea. It was a drawing and today it’s a home,” Highridge Costa Development Company President Mohannad H. Mohanna said on Wednesday. “Today, we are not here as developers. We are not here as city officials. We are not here as lenders or investors or city staff or inspectors. We are here as guests.”
The $21 million project — which was co-developed by Highridge Costa Development Company of Gardena, California, and Casa Linda Development Corporation of Dallas — has a total of 136 units, 119 of which are for seniors earning 30 to 60 percent of the area median income and 17 are priced at the market rate. Ten of them are for individuals with disabilities.
Sixty units are occupy on the complex while there are 14 more applications already approved, 30 applications still being processed and hundreds on a waiting list, Mohanna said.
El Sereno has several features and amenities including a community clubhouse with a kitchen, Wi-Fi, a game room, a fitness room, a yoga room, a swimming pool, barbecue grills and a laundry room. The apartments themselves have full-size appliances, covered balconies or patios, and nine-foot ceilings.
The new development is a unique fit for the city, Cibolo Mayor Stosh Boyle said.
“There is a growing need for the baby-boomer generation and for you to bring this facility to our town; we very much appreciate it,” he said. “We appreciate all your hard work. I can’t wait for all the opportunities the seniors have here in this community.”
El Sereno was developed with the help of tax credits awarded by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA). Annually, El Sereno will receive $1.5 million in tax credits during a 10-year period.
El Sereno’s tax credit application was one of the TDHCA’s top applications, Casa Linda Development Corporation President Linda Brown said.
“We were the only elderly senior deal in Region 9 and we were at the very top of the list. We were the top scoring application of even the multi-family applications top scoring,” she said.
Bank of America, which has partnered with Highridge Costa on several other projects for more than 20 years, was the tax credit investor.
“Bank of America is pleased to be partnering with Highridge Costa Housing to provide this beautiful and affordable community for the seniors of Cibolo, Texas,” Bank of America representative Charmaine Atherton said.
Atherton praised the developers and city officials on Wednesday for working together to create El Sereno.
“I come from Los Angeles and we’ve got a big problem there — homelessness. A big part of that population are seniors,” she said.
“Seniors on fixed incomes that can’t afford anywhere to live and the number is growing. I’m taking my hat off to all of you that have the vision to pick a good partner and to create a reality for some of our most vulnerable citizens.”
When the idea to build an affordable housing development was first brought to Cibolo City Council in 2014, there were several questions, such as who was going to live in it and what exactly does a project of this kind look like, Mohanna said.
“More importantly they wanted to know what does an affordable housing development look like 15 years down the road,” he said. “To the credit of the city of Cibolo, they did quite a bit of research to answer all of those questions. They really did their homework and I’m glad they did because once they did their homework they knew what the program produces.”
Together Cibolo Councilman Verlin ‘Doug’ Garrett, who represents District 2 where El Sereno is located, and former Councilman Jay Houge went up to Georgetown to visit a complex Highridge Costa established more than 15 years ago.
“We arrived at the development at 9 o’clock instead of 10 o’clock when the meeting was scheduled. We didn’t want to see someone that they put there to talk to us so we got a tour of the inside of a lady’s apartment on our own,” Garrett said. “She invited us in and told us she had been living at the facility for about seven years and she loved it. I walked in and said, ‘Jay, there is no way that this place is 17 years old.’”
After meeting with the property manager, Garrett said they were amazed but still had their concerns.
“My question was will that transfer to Cibolo. If you could see the development in Georgetown you would say,’ this is light years ahead,’” he said.
Garrett said El Sereno was a positive addition to the community.
“El Sereno allows a segment of the population that is aging and that wants to downsize to still have a quality life and a quality of living,” he said.
“This new community affords them the opportunity to do that. I fought for it and I love it. It’s just a blessing that we’re doing this today.”
Garrett even invited Mohanna to the idea of bringing another project to Cibolo. “With the population growing as it is, Moe, I invite you for a second round,” he said.