RALF OKs housing authority

Impacts of merger on assets, new program were concerns

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Despite some concerns, the Regional Affordable Living Foundation has given its blessing to the formation of a multijurisdictional housing authority.

At a June 20 meeting, questions were raised about the impacts that merging RALF into a governmental housing authority would have on its assets and a new self-help housing program.

But County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak, who also sits on RALF's Board of Directors, said that at RALF's last board meeting the group decided to write a letter in support of the recommendations to form a housing authority.

A community steering committee, which has been meeting for about six months, recommended that, when formed, the housing authority accept RALF's assets and assume all of RALF's obligations and liabilities.

RALF runs a down payment assistance loan program and owns Hillside Village Apartments, which offers affordable rental units.

One of the most pressing concerns coming out of the June 20 meeting was whether transferring RALF's assets in the middle of the self-help housing program would jeopardize the availability of U.S. Department of Agriculture grants.

The RALF board's concerns were eased, Stahoviak said, after talking with representatives from the USDA, who looked over the recommendations' wording.

According to the steering committee's recommendations, the housing authority would establish within its organizational structure an enterprise specifically for the self-help housing program and appoint a subcommittee of six board members to oversee it.

The authority also would retain employees hired by RALF to implement the self-help housing program and set aside money to pay any operational expenses not covered by the USDA grant.

After the first year of the self-help housing program, the housing authority would evaluate its success and decide whether it should go forward with another two-year grant. The program is designed to be continuous.

RALF's support is an important component to the list of recommendations that will be discussed at Monday's public hearing on a housing authority.

At the Monday meeting, recommendations will be displayed on storyboards in the lobby of Centennial Hall for the public to read and leave comments on via sticky notes. At 7 p.m., the steering committee will give a PowerPoint presentation on its recommendations and then take verbal comments from the public.

The public can pick up copies of the recommendations at the county commissioners' offices.

"We encourage the public to come to the hearing," Stahoviak said.

The recommendations also cover the composition of the housing authority board, the boundaries of the authority, the types of programs and projects that it could implement and possible revenue sources.

The recommendations from the committee would allow the authority to ask for property taxes not exceeding 5 mills, a sales tax or use tax not exceeding 1 percent or a development impact fee not exceeding $2 per square foot and not collected from low- or moderate-income housing developments.

The ability to tax is the major incentive for the county and city to form a regional multijurisdictional housing authority. In previous discussions between the two entities, elected officials have said they should first form a housing authority, build voters trust and then ask for a tax to help fund affordable housing. Asking for a tax could be three or more years away.

In its first year, the city and county plan to fund the housing authority with about $70,000 and are hoping to secure an Energy Impact Assistance grant to help lessen administrative costs.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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