Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Giving those in need a lift

Donation allows Housing Authority to take over Lift Tower Lodge

Express Staff Writer

The Lift Tower Lodge in Ketchum, at 703 S. Main St., will be reconfigured as affordable housing units. Photo by Willy Cook

    Not all seasonal laborers find work and others sometimes don’t make enough to afford the steep rental rates that characterize the Wood River Valley. Those who make less than $20,000 annually now have a chance to get back on their feet.
    An anonymous donor has put the Blaine County Housing Authority in control of the Lift Tower Lodge on the southern end of Main Street in Ketchum. The 3,100-square-foot motel ceased operations Friday, Oct. 31, and the Housing Authority will begin using the 14 motel rooms as affordable housing for the valley’s lowest-income residents sometime in the next month, possibly as soon as next week, said Executive Director David Patrie.
    The facility will service Housing Authority applicants who make 30 percent of the $56,450 area median income for a single person, Patrie said.

The use of this property will allow BCHA to give the lowest-income members of our community the lift they need to find a more permanent and workable housing solution.”
David Patrie
BCHA executive director

    Income levels have decreased while community housing applications have increased since the recession hit, a Nov. 3 news release from Housing Authority states.
    “In 2009, about 22 percent of the applicants had incomes that were less than half of the median income in the county,” it states. “Today, that percentage runs between 45 and 50 percent.”
    There are some 125 applicants in the Housing Authority database, the news release states.
    Single people with an income of $16,900 or less—some 30 percent of the area median income, are currently an extremely underserved demographic, Patrie said. Opening up the motel rooms as temporary housing will keep people off the streets and give them a jumping-off point, he said. The new name of the facility, The Lift, reflects the boost he hopes to give residents who often fall through the housing cracks.
    “The use of this property will allow BCHA to give the lowest-income members of our community the lift they need to find a more permanent and workable housing solution,” he said.
    The county assessor has assigned a value of $1.03 million to the property.
    The rooms are mostly equipped for individuals, but there are a few larger units that could accommodate families, Patrie said. The lodge was renovated within the past 10 years and will therefore open as is, he said, though additional funding will allow for added work later on.
    The Housing Authority will partner with the Hunger Coalition, the Crisis Hotline and the Advocates for Survivors of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault in order to find tenants, Patrie said.
    While single hotel rooms without kitchenettes don’t lend themselves to full-time housing ease, Patrie said The Lift will be flexible to individual timetables. People in this income bracket often apply for the federal Housing Choice Voucher Program, he said, which can have up to a two-year waiting list. He said three-month stays should be the norm, but people with nowhere else to go, who continue to pay their rent and follow the facility rules, will be accommodated for longer stays.
    Patrie said Housing Authority will likely charge residents based on a sliding income scale, with a rental fee reflecting 30 percent of their income. Applicants will be subject to background and income eligibility checks, the news release states. Patrie stressed the safe and desirable atmosphere his organization hopes to foster at The Lift.
    A dozen applicants came to mind, Patrie said, when the Housing Authority was gifted the facility—people he’s worked with over the past six months.
    “It’s a huge step forward,” he said.

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