The Ottumwa Courier

November 21, 2012

Grant-funded affordable housing complex slated to be finished by spring

Courier Staff Writer

OTTUMWA — New affordable housing is coming to Ottumwa this spring.

The Ottumwa Housing Authority’s new four-plex on Tindell Street will have two one-bedroom apartments, one of which will be handicapped-accessible, and two two-bedroom apartments, one of which will also be handicapped-accessible.

The complex meets Green Streets criteria, meaning a lot of recycled material will be used in its construction.

“The actual interior finishes are going to be nice for affordable housing,” said OHA executive director Dan Stroda. “They’ll have recycled carpeting and wood flooring.”

To the west of the complex will be the parking lot, which will have direct access to the two handicapped-accessible apartments above, while a set of stairs from the parking lot will take families to the two apartments below.

“We tried to do everything we could so nobody had a lot of shared walls,” Stroda said.

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

Behind the complex, they’ll plant grasses, perennials, black-eyed susans and more, as well as a yard to the east with plenty of room for kids to play.

OHA is also partnering with the city to provide and manage storm water lines, which will be compliant with the new sewer and storm water separation requirements.

“This is Neighborhood Stabilization Program [NSP] money,” Stroda said. “What it’s about is taking a lot that really isn’t perfect, and we infill in the neighborhood.”

Around two years ago, the city and OHA applied for an NSP grant. The city used the bulk of the money to do its first-time homebuyers program, which helps people build new homes.

“The grant itself had a requirement to do an affordable housing component,” Stroda said.

In Knoxville, that component meant money from the NSP grant went toward the local Habitat for Humanity chapter. Other cities’ economic development corporations have taken the money and rehabilitated dilapidated or vacant houses and lots.

“But we didn’t have any like that available to us,” Stroda said. “And OHA is required to provide so many accessible units.”

Since OHA is more than 40 years old, handicapped-accessible units weren’t originally part of the equation.

“So it’s more economical for us to build new than it is for us to try to take, say, a high-rise apartment, gut it and make it accessible,” Stroda said.

They were also limited in where they could build the new complex, with NSP proposing four to five sites within the city according to their guidelines.

“The land had to be where dilapidated housing had been torn down, where there were vacant lots, and in a certain time frame,” Stroda said. “Not every lot the city owned was available to us.”

The problem with some of the sites NSP chose, though, was the steepness of the roads and the difficulty of access.

“This is a challenging lot because it’s sloped,” Stroda said. “But we’ve learned a lot and much improved our skill set, so if we apply for this grant again to continue to provide accessible housing, we have a very good working base.”

The goal is to offer the units to OHA clients in the existing affordable housing program, especially if they need to move to handicapped-accessible units.

The complex is for low-income individuals and families who meet the 50 percent median income requirement, though OHA can work with those up to 80 percent.

“Any of the OHA clients would be eligible,” he said.

Stroda said the complex should be finished by March 15, 2013.

“I think it will be a pleasure for people to look at when it’s done,” he said.