After a year of construction and 12 years of planning, a Tarrant County church opened the doors to a senior living apartment complex built to help tackle affordable housing challenges in the community.
"I've seen it done in other cities and I just believed that we could do it too," Bethlehem Baptist Church Senior Pastor Dr. Michael Evans said.
Evans said his congregation grew concerned about the lack of affordable housing in Mansfield and seniors being priced out of the community they helped grow.
"We owe the baby boomers, we just owe them because they gave so much," Evans said. "Here we are, we get to do it and be a part of it and that's awesome."
The congregation raised $150,000 to buy a plot of undeveloped land across the street from their church in Mansfield in 2017. From there, the church said it partnered with the Hunts, Carlton Companies and Community Bank of Texas to build the 135-unit independent senior living complex.
The one- and two-bedroom apartments at Bethlehem's Pioneer Place are offered on a sliding scale. Evans said rent ranges from $325 a month to $900 a month, depending on what the resident can afford to pay.
Last year, NBC 5 covered the groundbreaking. This year, the complex opened its doors and is now 75% full.
"As soon as they were accepting applications, I ran over to the church and put in an application," Gary Alderson said. "Then, I waited."
Alderson said his patience paid off. He's been able to cut his monthly rent by nearly half, moving from a $1,300 a month one-bedroom in Mansfield.
"I was there a couple of years and both years it went up," said Evans of the rent at his old apartment. "One year it went up over $100."
He said the new apartment gives him the option to stay close to his children and grandchildren in Mansfield. Alderson said the rising rents across the city weren't sustainable for him.
"This coming along made it easier. I didn't have to worry about it so much," he said.