Friday, June 19, 2009

Housing Authority loses 160 applicants

Some leave town, others buy at market rate


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

Blaine County Housing Authority Executive Administrator Kathy Grotto updated the organizationís database this month. Photo by David N. Seelig

The number of Blaine County residents waiting to buy deed-restricted affordable housing has fallen sharply.

After updating its database of qualified applicants for affordable housing this month, the Blaine County Housing Authority discovered that 160 potential buyers of affordable housing no longer want or need to be on the waiting list.

The Housing Authority facilitates home buying for those in the community who would otherwise not be able to afford it by selling units under market rate. The only catch is that the owners are not allowed to see the same amount of appreciation on their investment that market rate home-buyers are. Deed-restricted Housing Authority units can appreciate at a rate of no more than 4 percent per year.

This was an attractive option a few years ago when the Housing Authority's program offered a way in to home ownership, despite skyrocketing real estate prices.

Times have changed.

Kathy Grotto, executive administrator of the organization, said that after calling and mailing qualified applicants to update the group's database, the list of applicants shrank from 360 to 200.

Twelve percent of those opting out bought market-rate homes in Hailey.

Another 29 percent gave no reason for why they opted out.

But another 25 percent left the area, Grotto said. Nine percent of those opting out of the affordable-housing program lost their jobs and could no longer expect to make home payments, and 25 percent could not be reached, she said.

"We assume that many of those who could not be contacted have moved away also," Grotto said.

The Housing Authority has 12 available dwellings for sale, as both income-based, deed-restricted units and "work force" housing units, based on job categories. Two of the units are in Elkhorn Village in Sun Valley, four are in Hailey, and five are in Ketchum.

Grotto said there are many reasons the Housing Authority lost so many applicants, but that uncertainty about employment seemed to be the leading factor.

"Many of them have lost their jobs," she said.

Other reasons are the tight lending market and declining real estate values, Grotto said. She said that at least one of the units the Housing Authority is offering for sale in Hailey is listed for sale above current market values in the neighborhood.

To some buyers, market-rate homes, if they are bought at a low price, offer a better long-term investment. Properties managed through the Housing Authority are only allowed to appreciate in value by a limited percentage each year, so they remain "affordable."

Tony Evans: tevans@mtexpress.com




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