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New affordable housing complex looks for tax credit to move forward

Ketchum may be one step closer to a long awaited new affordable housing complex.

Ketchum City Council unanimously approved $1.4 million in funding toward a 55-unit affordable housing project on the current site of Ketchum City Hall. The funding will only be used if the project is selected for a low-income housing tax credit from the U.S. Treasury Department.

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Officials hope the Bluebird Village project, will fill a necessary gap in the housing market in the pricey resort community. This is the fifth time in nine years Ketchum and developer Greg Dunfield submitted an application for project funding.

“With a successful tax credit application we could be getting an excess of $10 to $12 million dollars of public funds to support a much-needed project in a great location,” Mayor Neil Bradshaw said at the meeting. “That would house a number of new full-time residents that can support the businesses, support the community.”

Tax credits

Low income housing tax credits allow developers access to financing from the federal government if they will construct units set aside for residents making certain income levels. Federal government regulations determine rents, which depend on unit and income level for the unit. The project would offer three units at market rate.

There are only a certain amount of tax credits approved each year. In fiscal year 2019, Idaho only had $5.5 million to distribute in credits statewide. Idaho Housing and Finance Association, which distributes the credits, fielded 20 applications from developers and funded eight.

Developers made adjustments after missing out on tax credit funding last year, like more parking spaces and increased bike storage. According to Dunfield, the cost jumped $2 million dollars, making it a $22 million dollar project.

But, he says this is not only because of the recent design changes.

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“The fact is, we have a better understanding of what the building is and the cost to build it,” Dunfield said. “When I look at the cost for this project…compared to mid-range projects I’m doing in Seattle, this is well within the range of the cost of those projects. We’re in a much more remote location with much less access to skilled labor for this kind of building so I think this cost is defendable.”

Rent in Blaine County

The units would serve a broad range of incomes. Blaine County’s median income for a family of four is $78,400. The complex would benefit people earning between $16,000 and $60,900 annually depending on the household and unit size. Bluebird Village would range from one to three beds room units.

According to Rent Jungle’s 2018 data, the average rent for an apartment in Ketchum is $919. But, when looking at the same website’s seven listed apartments the lowest price is $1,750.

Bluebird Village would offer significantly cheaper rent. A one-bedroom unit’s monthly rent would range from $428 to $666. A two bedrooms rent would be $856. Three bedroom units rent would range from $990 to $1,510. For the workforce’s one and two bedroom units rent would range from $856 to $1,200 a month.

The United Way’s 2018 data shows that 52% of households in Blaine County lived below the Asset Limited, Income constrained, employed (ALICE) threshold. ALICE households are working families who can’t afford basic household essentials like health care and food.

According to a preliminary design drawing of the project presented by Dunfield, Bluebird Village would include three stories of housing and a fourth floor for amenities, parking and storage.

Nonprofit Ketchum Community Development Corporation (KCDC) will sponsor Bluebird Village. Dunfield’s Seattle-based firm GMD Development LLC and KCDC would co-develop the project, if approved for tax credit funding.

The city will not hear about funding until late November to December. If everything goes as planned, the complex should be up by the end of 2022.

Autum Robertson - BoiseDev Reporter
Autum Robertson is a BoiseDev reporter focused on Ketchum, McCall and general news. Contact her at autum@boisedev.com.

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