Photograph by The Idaho Statesman
BOISE - Looks are important, goes the saying, and Boise Mayor David Bieter would like to make sure that developers of affordable housing take a second and third look at a newly completed apartment complex for seniors 55 and older called 12th and River Senior Apartments in downtown Boise.
It's a 53-unit, $12 million developed by the non-profit Mercy Housing Northwest, a non-profit that has developed and now manages more than 500 units of affordable housing in Idaho. Funding for 12th and River, says The Idaho Statesman, with Federal low-income housing tax credits, loan from the City of Boise and a Section 202, supportive housing for the elderly grant from HUD. HUD will also provide project-based rent subsidies for residents of 41 of its units. Thanks to the subsidy, rents for income-eligible residents will be as low as $547 a month.
"We're proud," said Tony Olbrich of U.S. Bank which managed the sale of the tax credits to help finance the project, "to support a development that allows seniors to live independently and offers services that empowers its residents."
The project, reports The Statesman, is the first new affordable housing for seniors completed in Boise in some two years and the first-ever new construction project for Mercy Housing Northwest in the City. And Mayor Bieter is happy to have it. Very happy.
"This is the way these types of projects ought to look," he told The Boise Weekly. "I want to bring developers here and say 'take a look at this.' We would love to be a part of many more projects like this."
The city could certainly use them. U.S. News and World Report, for example, recently reported that a Brookings Institution analysis of U.S. Census date found that the Boise-Nampa metropolitan area has among the nation's five most popular destinations for retirees 55 and older, just behind Raleigh in North Carolina and Austin in Texas. Since 2000, it said, the area's experienced a "46 percent uptick" in residents 65 and older and a 92 percent increase in residents 55 to 64. That's the good news.
The not-so-good news is the tremendous pressure that population growth has created and will, since it's not slowing, continue to create for seniors and those on fixed or limited income who already enjoy the privilege and delights of calling Boise "home." Consider the draft Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing that the City of Boise has prepared. Currently, it found, the city has 1,100 units of affordable housing. It needs, the Analysis concludes, another 4,000.
Mercy Housing Northwest's development for seniors at 12th and River is an important step in closing that looming, even growing gap. And, fortunately, Mayor Bieter and many others see affordable housing as an essential element in maintaining Boise as one of America's great cities. But whether and how that gap will be closed is an open question, a huge challenge.
"Periodically," observed HUD's Northwest Regional Administrator Mary McBride, "our nation goes through a heated debate over whether we can afford to have robust, aggressive affordable housing programs. But, given all their contributions of seniors to the greatness of our country, the right question is whether, financially or morally, we can afford not to."
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