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Council sets aside funds for affordable housing units

By John Geluardi Daily Planet Staff
Friday February 16, 2001



The City Council has taken a step toward creating 35 units of affordable housing by setting aside nearly $2 million for three developments. 

The council voted unanimously Tuesday to reserve money from the city’s Housing Trust Fund for the three projects. The approval of funds brings the city a significant step closer to providing more affordable housing in a environment of dwindling supply and skyrocketing rents. 

The Housing Trust Fund was established in 1992 to promote the development of affordable housing. 

It receives money from a variety of federal, state and local sources including the Federal Community Block Grant Program, city housing mitigation funds and the city’s general funds. 

According to Janet Kennedy, a senior coordinator for the housing department, developing affordable housing is extremely complicated because of its multitude of funding sources. “We call it the ‘Dagwood Sandwich’ approach to financing because of all the layers of funding that have to be approved,” she said. 

Kennedy said the council’s approval of funds for the projects was a critical step in a long process to construct the housing. 

The three developments are the University Neighborhood Apartments at 1725 University Ave., Hope Homes at 2418 Eighth St. and the Picante House at 711 Harrison St. 

The proposed housing at 1725 University Ave., which will be developed by Affordable Housing Associates, is the largest development with 29 units, all of which are dedicated to low-income housing. The council approved $1.4 million for the project. The city previously allocated $453,000, which helped the developer purchase the site. The total estimated cost of the project is $9.3 million.  

Kennedy said because the units will be entirely dedicated to affordable housing, the project will be eligible for state and federal tax breaks.  

All of the units will be available to tenants who earn below 60 percent of the Area Median Income or less. There will be 13 units designated for tenants at the 60 percent level, which is $32,460 annually for a family of two. A single unit will be for tenants at the 50 percent AMI level or $27,050 for a family of two. Another single unit will be designated for a tenants who earn 30 percent of the AMI or $16,230 for a family of two. 

The remaining 14 units are designated for tenants who qualify for Section 8 vouchers. Eleven of the units will be designated for disabled tenants. 

The University Avenue project had been controversial originally. There was a group of neighbors concerned the apartments were too large and would cause parking and traffic problems. A few worried the affordable housing would attract drug users. 

But Rob Browning and Jim Webber, who are neighbors of the proposed development and were originally against the project, told the City Council on Tuesday that they had changed their minds and now support affordable housing in the neighborhood.  

Housing Director Stephen Barton said the turnaround was largely due to the developer working with neighbors to address their concerns about the design of the buildings. 

Hope Homes at 2418 Eighth St. was granted $245,000 from HTF funds. The four-unit project is being developed by Jubilee Restoration. Three of the units will be adaptable for disabled accessibility and one will be completely handicapped accessible. 

The project will make two units available for tenants at the 60 percent AMI level, one for 30 percent AMI and the last for a Section 8-qualified tenant. 

The council approved $296,000 for the Picante House at 711 Harrison St., which will provide six bedrooms of transitional housing for homeless families. The project is being developed by BOSS, Inc. and will also include job training and children activity facilities. 

The city previously approved $304,000 for the project and with Tuesday’s approval Picante House will receive a total of $600,000. 

All three projects are still making their way through the city’s planning and approval process and, according to Kennedy, it is still too early to predict completion dates. 

“The approval of HTF funds is just one step in a long process.” Kennedy said.