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December 20, 2012 9:56 am

Affordable rental housing proposed

Written by Tessa Schweigert

City Council approves letters of support for projects’ funding

Renters struggling to find affordable and available housing in Powell may have more options soon. Two separate proposals for 12-unit apartment complexes gained support from the Powell City Council Monday night.

The Wyoming Housing Network of Casper and Summit Housing Group of Missoula, Mont., each are applying for a tax credit through the Wyoming Community Development Authority next month. On Monday, city councilmen unanimously approved two letters of support for each venture.

Both applicants say Powell needs more affordable housing for low-income residents.

“There definitely is a need,” agreed City Councilman Eric Paul.

Sam Long with Summit Housing said a market study earlier this year showed a zero percent vacancy rate here.

“The city needs affordable housing … Powell and Cody both came back with zero percent vacancy rates. I’ve never seen zero percent. The city is in dire need right now,” Long told councilmen.

City leaders noted it’s a longstanding concern.

“Every study we’ve seen in the last 20 years has shown that,” Councilman John Wetzel said. “We just haven’t addressed it with the number of units.”

City Building Official William Petersen has voiced his concern for the lack of enough new apartments, and he said demand for rentals continues to outpace supply.

“We’ve grown really fast, and the demand for low-cost homes and apartments is rising,” he said. Apartments “don’t stay empty,” Petersen said.

He called the two apartment proposals very timely and said either would be good for Powell.

“A 12-unit complex will help, but it won’t solve the issue,” Petersen said.

Both projects are in preliminary stages. The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission has yet to consider either proposal, but will discuss the projects as they advance.

New apartments on Seventh Street?

Under the Wyoming Housing Network’s approximately $2.2 million proposal, 12 new rental apartments would be constructed on vacant land behind the Head Start facility at East Seventh and North Hamilton streets.

“The apartments will serve working households earning 40 to 45 percent of area median income,” wrote Gregory Hancock, president and CEO of Wyoming Housing Network, in a letter to the council.

Based on market demand, the network is seeking to build two units with one bedroom, four units with two bedrooms and six units with three bedrooms.

A street would be built between the Glad Tidings Assembly of God Church and the Head Start building to allow access, Hancock said.

Hancock told councilmen the apartments would serve working residents who fall in a specified income range.

“It’s not college housing. Now someone may be working and going to school, and in that case, they would qualify. But this is for working households,” Hancock said.

Hancock has met with the Powell Economic Partnership and Powell Inc. and said they are working to generate a local match of $10,000. He said the groups strongly recognize the need, and they’ve also discussed the new apartments’ potential impact on existing rental properties.

He said residents living in the low-income apartments wouldn’t be the same population as those who pay market-rate rent.

“If a household is paying market-rate rent and they cannot afford it, then typically they struggle to make rental payments, they may miss them and that creates problems that ripple in a number of areas,” Hancock said.

The proposed apartments would be owned by the Wyoming Housing Network and managed by another group familiar with the funding regulations.

Hancock said the Wyoming Housing Network wasn’t asking for money from the city of Powell, just a letter of support for the project.

New apartments in the Petersen Subdivision?

The Summit Housing Group’s projected $2.3 million proposal calls for the “Buck Creek Apartments” to be built in the Petersen Subdivision in south Powell. The complex would consist of four units with two bedrooms and eight units with three bedrooms.

“We build, manage and own our projects,” Long said.

The apartments would be available to those at 45 percent of the area median income, so roughly $25,606 for a two-person household, Long said. He said the WCDA program allows for a 10 percent fluctuation, so those at 55 percent down to 35 percent also could qualify for the affordable housing.

He said the group’s units in Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota serve a large percentage of single parents, and he liked the location’s proximity to Southside Elementary School.

Summit Housing Group had a market study done through Property Dynamics, a very reputable organization, he said. That study showed the zero percent vacancy rate and also indicated Powell needs 144 units.

Summit asked the city to consider waiving certain building fees (such as tapping into the city’s utilities) to help strengthen the WCDA application. Long said local monetary support helps applicants earn more points in the WCDA scoring model.

Councilman Jim Hillberry noted the group is a private entity, and said, “You’re getting all these federal tax credits, and you’re asking us to give you more by waving fees, which we’re struggling economically in our own city, so I think we have to discussion regarding that.”

Councilman Myron Heny added that the city recently denied waivers of tap fees for Habitat for Humanity’s house in Powell.

Long said the waivers could be discussed at a later date.

Low Income Housing Tax Credits

The Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program is an indirect federal subsidy that helps finance affordable rental housing for low-income residents. WCDA administers the program for the state of Wyoming. Each year, about $2 million is provided in tax credits for developers and contractors as an incentive to develop affordable rentals in Wyoming, according to the WCDA website.

“Funding is limited, so applications are competitively ranked, and typically only one third are successful,” Hancock said.

Support from the community helps strengthen applications for the WCDA funding.

The WCDA recently modified its scoring criteria to encourage more development in Wyoming towns with 10,000 residents or less.

Long said the process was changed because most of the projects were going to larger cities such as Casper and Gillette.

“They’re focused on smaller towns now,” Long said.

With the modified system, it’s likely more small communities will see developers apply for the program. In Cody, three applicants sought a letter of support from the Cody City Council Tuesday night. The Cody council approved letters for Summit Housing Group and the Wyoming Housing Network.

Both Summit Housing Group and the Wyoming Housing Network said they would work with local subcontractors as much as possible during construction.

Though councilmen approved two letters of support, it’s uncertain whether the WCDA will approve two projects for Powell.

“I couldn’t answer that,” Hancock said. The WCDA considers a number of criteria, he said, ranging from the need to how the community would perceive the addition of two new housing projects in Powell.

“They carefully and cautiously assess all of that before they make their funding decision,” Hancock said.

Long said the WCDA may find there’s a need for two apartment complexes in Powell.

The WCDA will consider applications early next year, and funding decisions are expected in April.

3 comments

  • Comment Link December 21, 2012 8:55 am posted by Salty Dawg

    Powell doesn't need affordable housing,Powell needs better paying jobs to be able to afford anything in Powell.

  • Comment Link December 23, 2012 7:04 am posted by Rebecca

    Just what do you consider affordable? I make $600-700 dollars a month. No wiggle room for anything there! Employment is NOT sustainable here.

  • Comment Link January 01, 2013 10:46 pm posted by Bridgette

    I think this is much needed for Powell!! The only low income housing we have here is bogus! As long as your name is in collections you will not qualify! Medical collections, it doesn't matter, most generaly the ones that need help are more then likely in some kind of debt somewhere otherwise they probably wouldn't need help. So I give a big thumbs up to this! :)

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