The Ottumwa Courier

March 29, 2013

Affordable housing complex opens its doors

CHELSEA DAVIS
Courier Staff Writer

OTTUMWA — A new affordable housing complex is finished and ready for moving trucks to start pulling in.

The Ottumwa Housing Authority’s four-plex on Tindell Street is a two-floor complex, the top floor consisting of two handicapped accessible apartments with direct access to the parking lot. Stairs lead down from the parking lot into two standard apartments on the bottom floor.

“Through our partnership with the city, we were able to get grant dollars to pay for the majority of the building,” said OHA executive director Dan Stroda at an open house Thursday afternoon. “This will be a positive addition to the neighborhood.”

Melony Peterson, COCC/AMP accounting clerk, said they hope to have people moved in by next month, and applications have already started arriving. Applications can be picked up at the OHA office during business hours.

Construction on the complex began in October after the city and OHA worked together for a couple of years to obtain a $1 million Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant. To get the grant, the city had to have an affordable housing partner, which is when OHA came into the picture.

“We spent half of the money on this project,” Stroda said. “The other half allowed others under median income to build new homes. We did seven new houses in town.”

Applications are already arriving at OHA,  and Stroda said they’re seeing enough interest to have viable applicants for the handicapped units.

“We only have a limited amount of accessible units in the community,” he said.

Due to the housing authority’s age, handicapped -accessible units weren’t considered 40 years ago, but are now desperately needed.

“The end result of this is a product that four families will be able to use,” said Steve Eggleston, Iowa Housing and Urban Development field office director. “These kinds of activities don’t take place unless the staff put in the work. With a smaller housing authority, it takes a lot of experience and know-how to work through a program like this.”

The property used to build affordable housing had to be abandoned or foreclosed in recent history, be owned by the city and not be viable in order to be considered, Stroda said.

OHA operates 359 units of public housing in Ottumwa, as well as 237 Section 8 housing choice vouchers, which helps subsidize rent payments.

Stroda reminded potential applicants that the new complex is for low-income individuals and families who meet the 50 percent median income requirement but who are able to pay the rent without a subsidy.

“They’ll rent it like they would any other rental in town,” he said.

The kitchens and bathrooms sit back-to-back between apartments, while the bedrooms and living room areas are situated on the outer portion of the building, so noise shouldn’t be a problem.

While Stroda doesn’t see any more rounds of NSP funding in the near future to construct affordable housing, he said OHA is working with the city to explore other grant options to build affordable housing on a smaller scale.

“When it’s all said and done, OHA will have an investment in 10 percent of the overall project,” Stroda said. “Then there will be the additional cost of landscaping, which our staff will do as a project over the summer.”