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Cedar Rapids Council Backs 7 Proposals for Affordable Housing

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa Seven proposals to build affordable housing here received backing on Tuesday from the City Council.

The seven projects, which include four projects targeted for seniors, now will compete with projects across Iowa to win awards of federal low-income housing tax credits to provide much of the financing for construction.

The award process will be "very competitive," Paula Mitchell, grant programs manager in the city's Housing Services office, told the City Council on Tuesday.

The seven projects include the Monroe Villas project, an Affordable Housing Network Inc. proposal to convert the shuttered Monroe Elementary School into apartments and to build single-family homes and duplexes on school grounds. Some neighbors objected to the 43-unit project, but it was approved by both the Cedar Rapids school board and the Cedar Rapids City Council.

The other six projects and their developers are:

Cedar Rapids ROSE Homes; Hatch Development; 30 rent-to-own, single-family homes on city-owned lots scattered in flood-hit blocks in northwest and southwest Cedar Rapids.

Kingston Village; T.W. Sather Co. and Landover Development; 64 apartments at Diagonal Drive and Second Street SW in the Kingston Village area.

Commonwealth Senior Apartments; TWG Development and Landover Development; renovation of a historic apartment building at 1400 Second Ave. SE for 84 units of senior housing.

Sonoma Square; High Development; 48 units of senior housing at Ellis Boulevard NW and J Avenue NW.

Second Avenue Senior Apartments; Neighborhood Development Corp. and MetroPlains LLC; 30 units of senior housing at Second Avenue SW and Seventh Street SW.

Cypress Senior Residence; Miller Valentine Group; 51 units of senior housing at 12th Avenue SW and Jacolyn Drive SW.

The total cost to build all the projects, which total 320 residential units, is $52.9 million. The city will contribute an assortment of incentives totaling $5.6 million of the cost, though no city incentives are being requested for the Monroe Villas project.

Projects in cities across Iowa and the nation compete to win federal low-income housing tax credits in a program created during the Reagan administration in the 1980s to help fund affordable housing.

The tax credit program is designed to allow investors to provide upfront money for housing construction in trade for a reduction in their federal tax liabilities.

The Iowa Finance Authority will make tax-credit awards for Iowa projects in the spring.

The city's Mitchell said no project in Cedar Rapids secured tax-credit funding from the Iowa Finance Authority in 2012 and 2013.

Council member Pat Shey on Tuesday said all seven projects were "quality" ones, and in answer to a question from Shey, Mitchell said the latest city housing study showed a continued need for affordable "work force housing" and affordable senior housing.

Council member Monica Vernon noted that the financial proposal to renovate the Commonwealth Apartments in Wellington Heights called for the city to provide a $437,000 forgivable loan, but she said the investment would likely increase property values in the neighborhood around the "icon" of a building.

Past projects in Cedar Rapids that secured tax credits include: Irving Point senior housing, 910 Seventh St. SE; Cedar Crest Apartments senior housing, 1100 O Ave. NW; Cedar Pond Townhomes, 3025 Williams Blvd. SW; and the Oakhill Jackson Brickstones on Sixth Street SE.

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