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Cd'A receives exclusive option to purchase school district property

Staff Writer | June 9, 2010 9:00 PM

COEUR d'ALENE - A piece of surplus property the Coeur d'Alene School District has been trying to sell for more than a year may soon be home to 60 units of workforce housing.

School trustees granted the city of Coeur d'Alene on Monday an exclusive 180-day option to purchase or assign 5.7 acres of vacant land near Woodland Middle School on St. Michelle Avenue.

The property, most recently appraised at $425,000, has been out to bid twice since early 2009.

"While we have received some inquiries, we have not received anything anywhere near an offer," Steve Briggs, district finance director, told trustees during their regular monthly board meeting.

When the transaction is completed, the district will receive the appraised amount, Briggs said, at no additional cost.

Troy Tymesen, the city's finance director, said the property's strategic location caught the attention of the city and local affordable housing planners when it first came on the market.

"It parallels with the very nice Prairie Trail, sits next to an excellent school in School District 271, and we're quite excited about the opportunity," Tymesen told trustees.

The city is partnering on the project with the North Idaho Housing Coalition, a nonprofit agency that works to make housing accessible to working-class families.

The city will prepare the land for sale, including rezoning it to R-17, which permits mixed housing types at a density of 17 dwelling units per acre.

Tymesen said the city's investment in doing that work is the reason the exclusive option has been requested.

"We want to make sure we have the first right to acquire it, put it into workforce housing, get the appropriate financing," Tymesen said.

Although the city is taking the lead in the purchase, the funding source to purchase the property will not come from the city.

Community Block Development Grants, stimulus money and rural development dollars are possible financing sources.

"Getting the exclusive option to purchase is just the first step," said Lori Isenberg, executive director of the North Idaho Housing Coalition. "Now we need to pull together additional partners to help finance the project."

Isenberg said they are researching a variety of opportunities through HUD, Idaho Housing and Finance Association and private sources.

The housing coalition is working on the project with The Housing Company, a developer affiliated with Idaho Housing and Finance Association, and the same development company working with the city on a workforce housing project on Fourth Street.

The dwellings proposed for the property near Woodland Middle School will be low to moderate-income apartments, which Isenberg said has been identified as the city's greatest housing need.

"Every week we hear from people who cannot find decent housing for under $500 or $600 a month. That is the price range we hope to target," Isenberg said. "Ideally, we would like to make it a mixed housing complex, so there is a nice blend of unit sizes and prices."

When the school district completes the sale of the land, Briggs said the funds received for the property will likely be put back into capital.

"It is yet undetermined, but it will be put to good use in the area of facilities of some type," Briggs said.

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