MURRAY — An empty field now thundering with the noise of I-15 traffic could soon hum with the sounds of senior citizens.

Mayor Dan Snarr wants to build a low-income senior housing complex on six acres along Vine Street, just west of I-15, and he has a $6 million grant from the Housing and Urban Development Department to fund the construction. What he does not have is about $2 million needed to buy the property for the complex. If the city does not acquire the land by June, it risks losing the federal money.

The property is ideal for the housing project, which would provide 78 one-bedroom apartments to low-income senior citizens, Snarr said. The land has a stream, which could be incorporated to provide pleasant landscaping. Also, it is close to retail centers and a light rail station, so the residents would have easy accessibility to shopping and travel options.

"It's got all of the elements that would really make the land nice to develop for affordable housing," Snarr said.

More important, it would help a population group that is growing quickly throughout Salt Lake County. With escalating bills in every imaginable housing expense, having a subsidized apartment complex would help many senior citizens survive their final years.

"A lot of them cannot have a good quality of life at the end of their life," Snarr said. "That's why this is very important."

One source of future funding could come from the property itself, because the housing complex would only occupy four of the six acres. The other two, Snarr said, could be used for a small office building or a retail establishment that could help offset the city's cost for the property.

Although the City Council has said it supports the project, some members doubted that the $2 million could be found before the deadline. The city still needs to do environmental and economic assessments for the property, and other properties should also be considered.

Another thing that the city should consider is the benefit that it would bring to the whole community, said Phil Carroll, president of Community Housing Services.

"It would allow people to live independently much longer then they normally could," Carroll said. "The people are able to live there with a much lower social cost."

Councilman John Rush said that along with the consideration still needed for the proposed property purchase, he also would like to see the city work harder to preserve existing affordable housing. There are apartment complexes in Murray that have started to fall apart and have begun to attract a high amount of crime, he said, but the city has done nothing to improve them.

"They are in horrible shape," he said. "But we've done nothing to offer to help them rehabilitate."

All of the council members agreed that until the June deadline has passed, the council and city staff should attempt everything possible to preserve the grant.

"Let's not put this out of sight," said council member Krista Dunn. "Let's do what we have to do to get it done."


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