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LCDC may fund private homes

by Tom Hasslinger
| November 18, 2010 8:00 PM

COEUR d'ALENE - A problem with revitalizing neighborhoods is that, once they're improved, the average family might not be able to live there.

Such could be the case for Coeur d'Alene families around a rebuilt downtown, where the average home sells for upward of $200,000. That's slightly out of reach for the median income of $57,000 for a family of three.

That median income can afford a $150,000 to $180,000 home, but not a $200,000 one.

"There's a gap there," said Lori Isenberg, North Idaho Housing Coalition director, on spruced up neighborhoods. "The unintended consequence is that the housing prices go up and the workers in the community can't afford it anymore."

One possible solution: Putting public money into properties to reduce the price and make them more affordable for working families.

By partnering with Idaho Housing and Finance Association, Housing and Urban Development and Coeur d'Alene's urban renewal agency, Lake City Development Corp., NIHC wants to close that gap and put working families in revitalized neighborhoods.

LCDC's role would be to grant an annual allotment to IHFA, which could then allocate it to housing stabilization programs run by nonprofits like NIHC.

LCDC, which generates its revenues from property tax increment financing inside its two districts, can't otherwise give money to nonprofits.

Their allotment, around $30,000 could be used on the property as a second mortgage. That would drop the value the family would have to cover to buy the house. The money would stay in the public's possession, too. The family would generate equity from their amount should they sell, and LCDC's sum would go back to the organizations to use to create another affordable house.

It would target families who earn up to 120 percent of the median income, or $68,400 a year, by buying deteriorating homes and refurbishing them before selling them as workforce housing.

"It's exciting" said Jim Elder, LCDC vice chair, on the possibility of keeping downtown homes constantly at an affordable workforce level. "One of our charters, as an urban renewal agency, is housing."

The partnership idea is just in discussion stage. Isenberg shared the idea with the LCDC board Wednesday. It was spurred by the success of NIHC's Neighborhood Stabilization program, that used a $1.5 million grant to refurbish and sell 22 affordable homes this year. The properties would have to be inside LCDC's two districts. The money, if it were used, wouldn't go away after the districts expire.

The board said it would consider the idea before bringing it back up later for more discussion.

Lake City Development Corp. unanimously agreed Wednesday to increase its director's annual 401k payment by $3,817 to $18,792.

The board did not increase director Tony Berns' annual base pay of $120,840.

It didn't raise his base pay last year either, saying in each instance that the timing for a raise wouldn't be appropriate given the economic condition.

It also increased the Berns' car allotment by $50 to $150 per month.

"The board thanks you," said Rod Coldwell, board member. "You've done a great job for us."

Berns was hired in December 2001. He thanked the board for its decision.

"There's a lot of committee work," he told them on his help with the workload.

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