Newly-arrived Powell residents are faced with a tight housing market. Add to that the difficulties encountered by low-income individuals and families, and the combination could slow relocation and …
Newly-arrived Powell residents are faced with a tight housing market. Add to that the difficulties encountered by low-income individuals and families, and the combination could slow relocation and growth.
There is a bright spot, though. The Wyoming Housing Network has partnered with Mountain Plains Equity Group to construct Powell Court Apartments, a 12-unit housing complex on North Absaroka Street; a ribbon cutting was held Friday. The complex is income restricted, meaning the prospective residents must provide proof they are at or below 60% of the area median income. In Powell, that means below $32,124.
The complex is financed by the low-income housing tax credit and HOME Investment Partnerships Program. The tax credit is a federal program where investors — usually businesses — buy into the housing construction to lower their income tax bill and HOME makes formula grants to states or communities who often work with nonprofit groups to pay for projects that include building, buying or rehab of affordable housing. It is the biggest federal block grant designed to create housing for low-income applicants. The construction loan was through First Bank.
The rent in some units is based on the income of the occupant. Jim Grenfell, executive director of the housing network, calls the apartments workforce housing.
“This is for people who are needed in the community but may not earn enough to compete in a tight market. So we create subsidized housing for them,” Grenfell said.
He talked about rookie police officers, beginning firefighters, grocery store employees, first-year teachers or professors who need housing, but are at the lower end of the pay scale.
Each unit has its own washer and dryer, and modern appliances, including microwave and two air conditioning units — all the comforts of home, one might say.
“We bring quality living units to people with low to middle income,” Grenfell said.
The application process, said Lesa Hiltz, property manager for the facility with Blueline Property Management, started before construction. Blueline submitted a resident selection plan to WHN, which included guidelines for tenancy, which includes income limits and criminal background. The guidelines allow for some legal infractions, except sex offenses. A prospective resident fills out an application that is time and date stamped when it is returned to the office. This places the applicant’s name on the wait list, as the complex is fully occupied. The management must, by state law, work from the wait list. When an opening occurs, a credit and background check is performed on all occupants age 18 and over. There is also a check on banking information and employment.
Once all the information is verified, it is sent to the compliance team to ensure all the parameters are met and all paperwork is completed.
Residents began occupancy in late April; the facility was filled by early June.
“Some of the new residents were in tears,” Hiltz said, “when they could get into a new apartment. That’s such a wonderful feeling, that they are so grateful and appreciative.”
Hiltz said it was the same whether the resident needed the apartment as a stepping stone to other housing, or if it was a long term situation for them.
The building features soft dove gray walls and coordinating carpet in bedrooms and living area, while the kitchen, laundry room and baths have synthetic wood flooring. The carpet is 12-inch blocks so that any that become stained or worn can be removed and replaced easily. And each apartment has a storage area in the hallway leading to the dwelling.
Hiltz said that in addition to having access to a bright, clean, up-to-date place to live, there are many other programs she can introduce to residents, including Section 8 housing subsidies through the Cheyenne Housing Authority and the Low Income Energy Assistance Program, which can help residents meet high power bills.
“There are so many programs out there they may not be aware of,” Hiltz said. “I love to help them so that eventually their budgets become more practical and they can live their lives.”
The Wyoming Housing Network also constructed the Ironwood housing complex on East Seventh Street. It is also income restricted. The network offers many resources to individuals and families who want to become homeowners, in addition to the work it does to create affordable housing across the state.
Some of those resources include counseling to would-be home buyers so that they can be successful once they make a purchase. There is also foreclosure counseling for residents who are struggling to keep their homes or even have concerns about making the mortgage payment, even if they haven’t missed a payment. That counseling can provide budgeting guidance, or foreclosure prevention or mitigation. If consumers reach out too late to avoid foreclosure, WHN teaches how to rebuild financial health after a foreclosure. It also works as reverse mortgage counselors, a federal requirement before taking out a reverse mortgage, and has guidance programs on accessing the USDA Rural Development Loan Program.
Mountain Plains Equity Group develops affordable housing units and provides investment capital and other resources to developers. It manages the process from financing and land purchases through design planning and construction.