Friday, April 15, 2011

URA tries to put affordable-housing issue to rest

URA borrowed $1.49 million of city’s housing money


By TREVON MILLIARD
Express Staff Writer

Ketchum’s Community Development Corp. plans to build 22 units of affordable housing on this Urban Renewal Agency property at the corner of First Street and Washington Avenue. Photo by David N. Seelig

A group of residents has struggled for years to gain reassurance from the Ketchum Urban Renewal Agency that $1.49 million of affordable-housing money borrowed from the city to buy real estate would be used to build affordable housing or returned to the city.

The URA made a move Tuesday in an attempt to put the issue to rest.

The money in question was transferred from the city's affordable-housing fund a few years ago so the URA—separate from the city but a public entity consisting of Ketchum's elected leaders plus two others—could buy a pair of properties. One is a lot at the corner of First Street and Washington Avenue costing $2.25 million. About $856,000 of that came from the city's affordable-housing fund.

The other property is the land containing the visitor center on Sun Valley Road, part of Ketchum Town Square. It cost $3.2 million, $640,000 of which was affordable-housing money. Neither property has yet been used for affordable housing, but preliminary plans are underway for the nonprofit Ketchum Community Development Corp. to build four stories of affordable housing at Washington Avenue.

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For that reason, the URA voted Tuesday to put all $1.49 million of equity into the Washington property, bought for $2.25 million. URA Attorney Stephanie Bonney said that if affordable housing is built there valued at a minimum $1.49 million, its obligation to the city will be fulfilled.

"It has become obvious we're not going to put low-income housing on the visitor center property," said URA Chair Randy Hall.

The vote was 6-1 with Board Member Nina Jonas dissenting.

Jonas argued that if the visitor center is not used for affordable housing—which the URA stated was the purpose of the purchase when the land was bought three years ago—that $640,000 should be returned to the city's in-lieu affordable housing fund, regardless of what happens at Washington Avenue.

The other URA members didn't respond to that in support or opposition, but URA Board Member Baird Gourlay suggested leasing the Washington Avenue land to the CDC and putting that money into the city's housing fund.

Jim Donoval, who has repeatedly reminded the URA about its $1.49 million obligation to the city, wanted to speak but Hall didn't allow him. Hall did permit public comment from another person at the public meeting.

Trevon Milliard: tmilliard@mtexpress.com






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