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For the week of June 6 - June 12, 2001


Balmoral nearly full

New affordable housing units rent fast

"We’re happy, we like to live here. It’s really nice, quiet here."

Sandra Castillo, Balmoral Apartments resident

Express Staff Writer

Rents at the price-restricted Balmoral apartments in Hailey range from $330 to $775 per month. The new development "helps the numbers greatly," said Blaine County housing director Gates Kellett. But "it certainly doesn’t put a lid on us needing housing in Ketchum at all." Express photo by David Seelig

At 120 units, the Wood River Valley’s largest rent-restricted affordable housing development is all but full and turning away qualified applicants after opening six months ago.

"I think that the demand is strong" for affordable housing said Carrie Jocke, a supervisor for Summit Real Estate Services that is overseeing the startup of the Balmoral Apartments on Hailey’s south side. The number of applications she’s received has been "extremely overwhelming."

"We’re happy, we like to live here," said Sandra Castillo, 39, Thursday evening as she unpacked groceries with her mother and nephew, Jose Rivas, 20, in her new home. "It’s really nice, quiet here."

Castillo said she and her husband and three children moved into a new three-bedroom unit, which rents for less than $775 a month, from a neighboring apartment complex when Balmoral opened around Christmas.

She and her husband run an office cleaning and maintenance business that they bought nine months ago and moved here from Nampa. Their work is equally split between Hailey and Ketchum.

Rivas, 20, obviously impressed with his aunt’s new home, said he’s looking for work in the Wood River Valley as a welder so he can move his wife and two children here from Nampa. Previously, he lived in south central Los Angeles and said he left because of gang violence.

Created under the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program, the Balmoral Apartments are a partnership between the private, Boise-based Thomas Development Co. and the Internal Revenue Service. Units are available to people whose incomes are 60 percent or less of Blaine County residents’ median income, which is $66,500.

A single resident, for example, must earn less than $27,960 per year to qualify for a one-bedroom unit that would cost at most $555 per month. A six-person household must have a combined income of less than $46,260 per year and would pay at most $775 per month for an apartment. Rents are less for those who earn less money.

Jocke said she has turned away more than 20 applicants who earn just under the maximum income because she doesn’t have units available for them.

For residents, and for planners from Ketchum and Hailey, the Balmoral apartments are somewhat of a mixed blessing. Because the development is so big, it takes a huge chunk out of the valley’s need to house low and middle-income workers.

When a second construction stage is completed later this year or early next year, Balmoral will total 192 units.

But the apartments’ location does little to integrate communities based on class and income, critics say. And it does little to reduce the number of commuters on Highway 75 who travel to Ketchum for work.

Balmoral "helps the numbers greatly," said Blaine County housing director Gates Kellett, whose job it is to increase the valley’s affordable housing inventory. But "it certainly doesn’t put a lid on us needing housing in Ketchum at all."

On Thursday, the five-member Blaine County Housing Authority toured the new development with Jocke inspecting a two-bedroom and a one-bedroom unit.

The individual buildings, which will eventually total 19, are three stories tall with cream-colored stucco and synthetic wood siding. A greenbelt runs through the middle of the development leading to a soccer field the developer must eventually donate to the city of Hailey.

Throughout the day, jets roar along Hailey airport’s runway, just across Highway 75, momentarily stopping all conversation. Tenants must sign a form stating they won’t complain about the noise.

Inside, the units have white walls, wooden cabinets and gray carpet. Extras, such as a washer and dryer or a single-car garage, are rented separately.

Housing authority members asked a variety of questions --from whether pets are allowed (no) to how leasing works.

One concern for the authority was the possibility that a corporation could rent a large number of units for its employees, shutting out other renters. But Jocke said a corporation couldn’t qualify to rent the units, because qualification is based on individuals’ incomes.

Due to the way the leasing system was created, Jocke said, tenants whose incomes go up might be required to move to a different unit, but they would never be evicted for getting too large of a pay increase.

At the entrance to the development is a community clubhouse with an exercise room, community kitchen, leasing office and business center with computers available for tenants’ use.

Jocke said one service Balmoral will offer is education on how to qualify for government programs that make home loans available to low-income workers.

"We try to encourage people to buy homes," Jocke said.


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