“Excuse me,” an older man said as he peeked his head into Mike McKenna’s office at the Hailey Welcome Center last week. “I’m sorry to bother you, but the housing people called and told me I got a unit.

“I’m so thrilled,” he continued. “I just want to make sure it’s real and they didn’t call me by accident.”

The man was referring to The Housing Company, a nonprofit that connects low-income residents to affordable housing on behalf of the Idaho Housing and Finance Association.

Lately, company representatives have been operating out of office space at the Hailey Welcome Center, reviewing piles of applications for the city’s new 60-unit Blaine Manor Senior and Family Community affordable housing project and mailing out acceptance letters.

McKenna—who is the executive director for the Chamber of Hailey, which also has its offices in the Welcome Center—watched the older man visibly fight off tears as he realized that his application, had, in fact, been approved.

“To have a nice place to live is a dream come true,” McKenna recalled the man telling him. “I can stay here, stay home, where I love it,”

According to Michelle Griffith, executive director of ARCH Community Housing Trust, apartments at Blaine Manor have already been allocated on the senior side—that is, the northern green building with rustic beaming—but the application period for two- and three-bedroom affordable units to the south is still open.

(The “family” building along the bend in Main Street is markedly different, with a gray color scheme and garden style, direct-walk-up apartments.)

In less than a month, Griffith said that the 18 one-bedroom apartments and 12 two-bedroom apartments on the senior side should be fully occupied. All but three units have gone to residents over the age of 55 who are making 60% or below of Hailey’s area median income, she added.

“It’s hard to believe that move-in day is Dec. 15. We’re really, really trying to get people in before the holidays,” Griffith said with a laugh as she gave a tour of the building on Wednesday. “It’s a bit of a beehive right now.”

Inside, dozens of contractors were carrying sinks through the hallway, cutting doors and laying tiles; outside, landscapers in neon sweatshirts and beanies were busy breaking up solid dirt, digging trenches with Ditch Witches and carefully laying out rolls of sod with gloved hands.

On the first floor of the senior building, Griffith pointed out a conference room, two guest bathrooms and a community lounge room with a stone fireplace. On the second floor, a one-bedroom apartment with views of Carbonate and the Smoky Mountains beyond; on the third floor, a two-bedroom apartment overlooking Nelson Fields, 97 uncovered parking spots and a children’s outdoor play area, still in development.

Griffith took a moment to reflect on the history of the project site and construction pipeline.

“In year one, we were looking for property and seeking financing. In year two we went under contract; in year two and a half, we started the entitlement process, which was tough with COVID,” she said. “We weren’t even sure what the video-chat, electronic-meeting protocol was at the time.”

Until 2015, the 2.75-acre property housed the county-subsidized Blaine Manor skilled nursing facility. After the closure of the nursing facility, the county unsuccessfully attempted in 2015 to auction the land off—leaving the county free, under Idaho law, to dispose of the property by other means. After hearing a series of pitches, the Blaine County commissioners provisionally offered the land to ARCH—along with a chunk of money in support—so the Housing Trust could pursue tax-credit financing to develop the site into affordable housing.

In May 2020, the development was unanimously approved by the Hailey City Council. The following month, the Blaine County commissioners approved a deed to transfer the lot from county hands to the Idaho Housing and Finance Association, simultaneously passing resolution proclaiming that the transfer was in the public interest.

On Wednesday, some six years and countless hours after setting out on the project, Griffith watched as contractors put the final touches on the two buildings.

“It’s been a long road,” she said.

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