Sweetwater houses

Hailey construction at Sweetwater.

A new nonprofit is developing plans to take another bite out of the valley’s affordable-housing crisis.

At the regular Hailey City Council meeting on Monday, the Wood River Community Housing Trust outlined a plan that aims to help house locals by developing rental units for those who are actively working and living in the area, through donations, investment and other funding sources.

“We believe that solving the housing challenge will require a flexible and adaptive model,” said developer Tim Wolff, who serves as co-founder and treasurer of the organization. “The housing will need to go where the local conditions are receptive. We can’t rely on one ‘big fix,’ and there is no cookie cutter solution.”

According to Wolff, rents in the organization’s projects will be 30% to 40% below market value. The nonprofit plans to charge 30% of household income in rent, Wolff said, which is in line with a long-standing federal guideline for determining what renters can afford.

The organization’s first project, which has yet to be announced, will offer units at 30% below market value, Wolff said.

Wolff stated that the organization does not seek federal housing funds; rather, the group hopes to bring local partners together to raise funds to acquire and build rental properties.

Some of the partners identified in the slideshow included community donors, local nonprofits, banks and lenders willing to invest in projects, the Idaho Housing and Finance Association and other investors who are interested in buying tax exempt bonds.

The group looks to secure a bond structure that would be materially below market cost and hopes that such bonds could cut capital costs by about 50%. The group also looks to use its nonprofit designation as a way to garner property-tax exemptions to cut operating costs and pass the reduction in cost to the occupants through lower rents.

Tax-exempt municipal bonds are projected to produce roughly 70% of project costs, and the remaining capital can be purchased by local donors, nonprofits and for-profit businesses in the community, the group reported.

The group also looks to “sponsor” employers who can purchase subordinated bonds for these project. These bonds will present priority access to the employer’s workforce. The priority would grant the employer with a single two-bedroom apartment with the purchase of a $120,000 bond, for example, and purchasers can sell these bonds if they no longer want or need priority housing. 

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