courtesy of  Sadie Jo Smokey, Feb 2010; Arizona Republic

A vacant, nondescript brick building that once housed a charter school and offices will be razed and turned into affordable housing next to the light-rail line.

Devine Legacy on Central, a five story, 65-unit rental complex, will be between the Lexington on Central and Pavilions on Central apartments across from Central High School.

It’s named in honor of Native American Connection’s CEO, Diana Yazzie Devine, the non-profit organization’s leader for more than 30 years.

“I don’t know how I feel about it,” said Devine, a Mesa resident. “At a board meeting one night, the board collectively decided to name it.”

NAC’s eighth affordable-housing complex has an estimated $15.8 million price tag. Funding came from housing-tax credits, Arizona Department of Housing, deferred developer fees, other grants and private funding. Phoenix is lending Native American Connections up to $3 million in HOME program funds to pay for demolition and redevelopment.

Affordable housing is needed, said Leander Yaiva, a resident in another NAC community.

“It’s a good place to be,” said Yaiva, who lives at Whispering Palms in Phoenix. “It feels safe. People don’t mind their kids playing in the front.”

Each NAC community may have a different target market, but all are drug-, alcohol- and crime-free, and open to renters of any ethnicity, said Devine. One property serves seniors, another, homeless youths. Approximately 35 percent of NAC’s clients do not self-identify as Native American.

“We are here to serve Native people; that hasn’t changed,” Devine said. “There are so few programs that serve the Native American community . . . affordable housing is our mission.”

Rents on all the units will be 10 to 45 percent below market rate, or about $200 less per month for a similar unit – depending on the market at any given time of the year. A majority of the studios, one-, two-, or three-bedroom units will be rented to individuals or families who earn between 40 and 60 percent of adjusted family median income, or $38,520 for a family of four. Six units will rent at market rate.

Residents will live next door to the Native American Community Service Center, which is home to eight non-profit organizations. Services in the building range from medical and dental to behavioral health, workforce development and home care.

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