Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Housing panel welcomes four Hailey units

New housing needs assessment to begin soon

Express Staff Writer

Michael David

It's been eight years since Blaine County formed a housing authority to facilitate construction of homes that middle- and lower-income residents of the county can afford. This winter, four homes in Hailey will become the city's first deed-restricted ownership community housing units.

"It's exciting. I think we want to let people know these units are out there," said Michael David, housing authority director. "These are the first units in Hailey the housing authority has played a part with."

The four new townhouses in Hailey's Woodside subdivision are parts of the Winter Fox and Edgewood subdivisions, which the city of Hailey approved as planned unit developments in 2003 and 2004, respectively. Construction should be complete in two to three months. They each have three bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms. Two will sell for about $145,000. One will sell for about $125,000, and another will sell for about $175,000.

The four new units will bring the housing authority's total base of deed-restricted units to 26 units.

"Things are moving in the right direction," David said. "We've got 40 units under construction and scheduled for completion by the spring of 2006, with many more in the pipeline. I'd love to encourage anyone who's interested in either renting or owning to contact me."

David said the housing authority currently has about 120 applications from local residents interested in purchasing deed-restricted units. Applications continue to arrive at its offices at a rate of between three and four per week.

The new units in Hailey are not the city's first community housing project. They are merely the first units in the city to be regulated by the housing authority and to be available for sale. In 2002, the Balmoral Limited Partnership announced that 72 rental units were ready for tenants at the Balmoral Apartments, also located in Woodside.

"Market studies have demonstrated a huge demand for affordable housing in the Wood River Valley," said Tom Mannschreck, majority owner and general partner of the Balmoral Limited Partnership. "The demand is astronomical, and here we have a supply."

Supply of and demand for affordable housing is, in fact, something the housing authority is attempting to better understand. Later this month, it will advertise a request for proposals for an updated housing needs assessment. An original 1997 needs assessment was updated in 2002, but this study would start from scratch, David said.

"We're hoping to do it a lot more specific to the demands in the various municipalities and the county in specific areas," he said. "We can speak passionately until we're blue in the face about the need for affordable housing, but when it comes to talking with developers and drafting ordinances, we need to have some numbers to base things on."

Housing authority board member David Kipping said the study could help the authority work toward facilitating a mix of housing that fills various needs.

"How do you decide what you need without a study indicating the needs," he said.

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