Friday, February 8, 2013

Appeal for housing-project grant denied

Idaho Housing and Finance Association cites high construction costs

This rendering shows one concept developed for the Washington Place housing project. Courtesy graphic

    The Idaho Housing and Finance Association has once again denied an application for about $600,000 in federal grants to build an affordable housing project in downtown Ketchum, but city officials say they’re not giving up.
    The project, named Washington Place, is proposed for a quarter-acre property at the northeast corner of First Street and Washington Avenue owned by the Ketchum Urban Renewal Agency. The Ketchum Community Development Corp. would build the project in partnership with GMD Development. The four-story building would consist of 23 rental units.
    The URA would lease the property—which it bought in 2006 specifically for developing affordable housing—to the CDC at a low cost. However, to build the project, the CDC needs to secure just over $600,000 of tax-credit financing from IHFA.
    IHFA receives federal grant funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Department and uses that money to support tax-credit housing projects throughout Idaho. The CDC applied with IHFA for financing in September, was rejected in November, appealed the decision in December and was informed Tuesday that IHFA denied the appeal.
    “The last few months have been challenging,” said CDC Executive Director Jon Duval. “We believe we have a very strong development that reflects the very real need for rent-restricted units in Ketchum. We also were very cost-conscious in creating a design that fits within the downtown core and adheres to our community’s zoning standards.”
    Duval said IHFA rejected the project based on its cost and questions about market demand in the city for new affordable units. He said that because of the high cost of construction in the northern Wood River Valley, as compared to the rest of Idaho, applications for projects there require more tax credits than do applications for projects elsewhere.

“We believe we have a very strong development that reflects the very real need for rent-restricted units in Ketchum.”
Jon Duval
Ketchum CDC

    “It is exactly [because] of this high cost of construction, housing and living that Ketchum is applying for these credits in the first place,” a Thursday CDC news release states.
    In response to IHFA’s claim that there is not enough demand for affordable housing in Ketchum, Duval says there is, though it’s not obvious.
    “The target population for Washington Place is declining because of the lack of affordable housing—to us this signifies a need to get units built,” he said. “However, IHFA apparently views this as a decrease in demand.”
    The CDC release states that demand for affordable housing in the city has been demonstrated in numerous market studies over the past five years, including a recent Needs Assessment completed by the Blaine County Housing Authority as well as consistent requests from local businesses that have trouble attracting employees because of the available housing options.
    “Our project appears to be facing higher standards than other applications around the state when it comes to the program requirements,” GMD Development President Greg Dunfield stated in the press release.
    According to the release, the CDC, GMD Development and the city’s officials will continue to “work together” to see that the project is completed because of the “strong support” for the creation of affordable housing within the city’s community. Duval said the CDC will not apply for financing for the project again in IHFA’s next financing application round because the organization needs more time to evaluate IHFA’s response concerning the appeal. IHFA accepts applications twice a year, in September and February.
    “[We] believe there are changes we can make that will satisfy the IHFA requirements,” he said. “We haven’t had time to make definitive plans yet, but I would very much count on us putting in another application for the September round of financing.”

Brennan Rego:

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