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Developers apply for affordable housing grant

Developers apply for affordable housing grant

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ASHLAND – Developers are applying for a $500,000 grant and tax credits to build affordable housing on the north side of Ashland.

Rob Woodling and Thomas Judds of Ashland Affordable Housing Partners held a public hearing Friday at the Ashland Public Library to gather testimony on the project.

Woodling said they are applying for a HOME Funds grant from the Nebraska Investment Finance Authority (NIFA) and the state Department of Economic Development to build 12 four-bedroom units at 24th and Euclid streets.

The 1,622 square-foot, two-story units would be built in three four-plexes. They plan to have two and one-half baths and at least a one-car garage.

Rent for nine of the units would be $625 per month. Renters have to meet income qualifications, Woodling said. A family of four with income below $45,660 would qualify, Woodling said. The amount is 60 percent of the median income of Saunders County, he explained.

Rent would increase two percent per year on average and renters would have to recertify each year, he added.

The target audience is a two-parent household with one stay-at-home parent or a single-parent household, according to Woodling.

“That’s our typical demographic,” he said.

The other three units will rent at the market rate of $800. Judds said they may consider building some units with two garages.

While this housing is meant for low to moderate income families, it is by no means unattractive, Judds said.

“People think low income looks trashy,” Judds said.

The design include attractive brick on the front and landscaping.

Ashland City Council Member Janece Mollhoff and Mayor Rick Grauerholz looked over the proposed design at the public hearing.

“It looks really nice,” said Mollhoff.

Grauerholz said the design is a blend of the newer homes in the area and the older Kendel Heights neighborhood, with homes built in the 1960s and 70s.

“It will tie that part of town together,” he said.

Mollhoff said the housing study recently completed by the City of Ashland and the Ashland Area Economic Development Corporation (AAEDC) shows a definite need for affordable housing in the community.

“So you guys are filling a good niche there,” she said.

Mollhoff also touted the location of the proposed townhomes, which are located close to Wiggenhorn Park with the city pool and splash pad, as well as along the city’s hiking/biking trail.

“It’s a great location for families with kids,” she said.

Judds said one of the keys to this project is finding affordable land. Bill and Lucille Sapp gave Judds and Woodling an option to buy the land, contingent upon receipt of the grant.

“They were extremely gracious,” Judds said. “It will fulfill his vision and it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.”

Sapp will also be building market-rate townhomes on the opposite end of the parcel.

Judds, who lives in the Ashland area, said he has wanted to build a project like this for a long time after having worked in the affordable housing field for many years.

“Affordable housing has been near and dear to my heart,” he said. “What better place to do it than my hometown of Ashland?”

After the Sapps offered the parcel of land, Judds went to Woodling to form a partnership, T & R Development. The two worked together in the past and look forward to many more projects.

“This is our first venture together and I’m hoping we can expand that,” Judds said.

The AAEDC will be the non-profit sponsor of the grant. AAEDC President Rod Reisen said the organization fully supports the project.

“It’s a fantastic project for the community,” he said. “There’s a huge need.”

Judds and Woodling will also be competing for tax credits for the project. Judds said tax credits are “very competitive,” with $4.4 million allocated to Nebraska for next year. That money is divided between the four or five applicants who are awarded the credits. As many as 20 apply each year, he added.

Developers sell tax credits to investors. Judds said many banks purchase tax credits.

The purchaser typically buys them at a discount.

“Each credit is a dollar for dollar reduction in taxes they have to pay,” Judds said.

The money raised by the developer through the sale of tax credits goes toward the project’s equity.

“More equity means less debt and lower rents,” Judds said.

“More affordable rents,” Woodling added.

Grauerholz said he hopes the proposed project sparks interest in more development. In talking to other community leaders, the mayor said there is a common denominator for success.

“They all say development breeds additional development,” he said.

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