The Blaine County commissioners moved one step closer to finalizing the transfer of the Blaine Manor property in Hailey on Tuesday with a resolution signaling their intent to do so.
The last remaining step now—which the commissioners plan to complete in the coming weeks—is to review and officially sign the deed.
The resolution, passed unanimously by the commissioners in their regular meeting, formally declared that transfer of the lot to the Idaho Housing and Finance Association is in the public interest. The land will be used by ARCH Community Housing Trust for a 60-unit affordable housing development; 30 of those units will be for seniors.
The resolution was drafted “out of an abundance of caution and to provide a second legal base for the transfer,” county attorney Tim Graves said. Idaho law allows the county to transfer property to another political subdivision with or without compensation if the transfer is in the public interest.
“The COVID-19 pandemic just further highlights that in times of difficulty, basic needs food and shelter are that much more important,” Commissioner Angenie McCleary said. “I can’t think of a better time to be moving forward on this project.”
After the closure of the skilled nursing facility that used to occupy the Blaine Manor property, an attempt in 2015 by the county to auction the land off was unsuccessful—leaving the county free, under Idaho law, to dispose of the property by other means. The county then considered proposals from several potential buyers and approved one, but that deal fell through.
ARCH has proposed a 72,000-square-foot development that will consist of a senior apartment building and a family apartment building. Monthly rent for the one- and two-bedroom senior units is expected to range from $370 to $960, and two- and three-bedroom family units will likely cost between $790 and $1,110. Fifty-five units will be reserved for people who earn between 30 and 60 percent of Hailey’s median income.
“As you know, commissioners, this intended deal has been in process for several years,” ARCH Executive Director Michelle Griffith said at Tuesday’s meeting. “Our purpose today is to move forward with a very clearly publicly stated intent, which has been in process for a long, long time, further adding emphasis to the county’s intent to have this property developed for affordable housing.”
ARCH has procured about $15 million from a number of sources, including the IHFA, low-income tax credits and federal sources, Griffith told the Idaho Mountain Express in April. Blaine County also pledged $500,000 to the project.
The development was unanimously approved by the Hailey City Council last month. ARCH expects to break ground this summer and to complete the project by fall 2021, Griffith said at the time.
Tuesday’s step forward by the county was praised by several meeting attendees in the public comment period, including Blaine County Housing Authority Director Nathan Harvill.
“We continue to have a very high need for affordable and attainable local housing options,” Harvill said. “Having real local affordable housing options for our community will help us recover from this economic downturn and help us in our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. And it will provide some sustainability for our economy in the coming years.”
County commissioner candidate Kiki Tidwell, who is challenging Chairman Jacob Greenberg for his seat, said during the public comment period that she agreed that affordable housing should be built on the lot. But Tidwell said she would like to see the county keep the property itself rather than transfer it.
“I believe the county needs the income of this property in the future to balance its budgets,” Tidwell said.
ARCH Executive Director Michelle Griffith responded that the county itself is not eligible for the development tax credit financing much of the project. McCleary added that the county does not have the funds or “the expertise in housing” to develop housing itself.
“[This project] is the most cost-effective way for the county to see affordable housing,” McCleary said. “I do not think the county could take on this project on our own.”
The deed, which commissioners expect to review and sign next week, includes a condition that the Blaine Manor property must be used for affordable housing in perpetuity.
“If something happens with ARCH or the Idaho Housing Finance Association, this property remains in affordable housing,” Graves explained.
The condition was added at the request of Greenberg, Graves said.
“My concern was that this stays affordable housing irrespective of who the owners are, whether it comes back to the county or there’s another owner other than ARCH,” Greenberg said. “I want to make sure that stays in place.”