SILVER SPRING — The Sanctuary, an affordable housing residence for seniors, opened Saturday, adding 75 mixed-income apartments to Montgomery County’s stock of 77,000 affordable units.
“This County needs a lot more housing. This County needs a lot more affordable housing. This County needs a lot more senior housing, and we need a lot more affordable senior housing,” declared County Council member Tom Hucker.
“Our seniors are who built this County,” Hucker told those gathered at the ribbon cutting for the three-story, L-shaped building that is located behind Mount Jezreel Baptist Church on University Avenue near its intersection with Colesville Road.
The $20-million apartment building was created by a partnership between the Mount Jezreel Community Development Corporation, Mission First Housing Group and the Henson Development Company.
The complex was funded through $9 million in tax-exempt bonds, $1.85 million in Maryland rental housing funds, $2 million in County HOME Program Funds, $6.6 million in low-income housing tax credit equity, and $1.1 million in Seller Financing and Development Equity.
“This is such a gift to Montgomery County,” said County Council member Nancy Floreen. “You all made this happen, not the government, not the builders, you. Know that we love you for this,” she said to those gathered under a white tent in front of the Sanctuary building.
County Executive Ike Leggett told the crowd that he met with Pastor Eldridge Spearman of Mount Jezreel Baptist Church many years ago when Spearman came to Leggett’s office to talk about his dream of building affordable housing on church property.
Back then, Spearman acknowledged, he knew little about how to make his dream come true.
But Leggett wasn’t troubled, he said, because he knew Spearman “knows God, which is more important than knowing builders.”
Then, right then and there, Leggett and Spearman “got down on our knees in the County Executive office,” Leggett said. “In a secular building, he and I were praying about this building.”
And it all worked out, Leggett said, adding that everyone involved contributed to something “that will make a difference in the lives” of County residents.
“You’ve touched the lives of people who need housing,” Leggett said, adding that he and his 12 brothers and sisters grew up in a three-room house in Louisiana that was smaller than his current bedroom suite.
Dan Henson, president of the Henson Development Corporation, recalled he was hesitant to take on this project after hearing about the difficulties of getting approval by various boards in the County.
“Montgomery County is hard. We’ve heard people talk about how hard it is,” Henson said, adding, “It’s hard, because it’s kind of fair. It allows for maximum community participation.”
The 75 units are for active seniors who live independently. Rent is based on the tenant’s income, with only eight units to be rented at market rate.
Besides living space, the Sanctuary includes a community room, a back porch and shared-use path, lighted sidewalks and 55 parking spaces. There is a community room with kitchen, laundry room, business center and fitness center.
Sarah Constant, managing director of Mission First, which develops and manages affordable housing with a mission-driven focus, jokingly told the crowd while some say that the devil is in the details, in this development, the devil was in the debris.
Apparently, when University Avenue was built, much of the road debris was stored behind the church. All that had to be removed before building could begin, she said.
Council member Marc Elrich suggested that church members who were involved in creating the Sanctuary should reach out to other faith community groups.
“I’d like to see a whole lot more of these,” he said.