EDA OKs vouchers to support apartment project

NEW ULM — Tuesday morning the Economic Development Authority authorized staff to solicit proposals for participation in the project-based voucher program.

Recently the EDA approved converting four Section 8 housing choice vouchers to Section 8 project-based vouchers at the request of the State Street Apartments project. This request helps the apartment project secure financing.

Housing Coordinator Heather Bregel said these vouchers cannot be directly given to State Street Apartments. The vouchers must be awarded through a competitive process, which requires soliciting for proposals. This allows other groups a chance to request the vouchers for a similar project.

“I don’t anticipate that we will receive any other proposals but you never know,” Bregel said.

The four project vouchers can only be used to house longterm homeless individuals or families. Assistance for this type of vouchers may be authorized for newly constructed housing only and it must meet the Section 8 housing quality standards. For this reason Bregel thought it unlikely other requests would be submitted.

The deadline to submit a competitive proposal is June 29, with the EDA selecting a winning proposal at the July 10 meeting.

The EDA does have the option of allocating additional project-based vouchers if another property owner wanted to goes this route in the future.

The board also authorized an application for federal home loan bank (FHLB) grant funds. These funds are available for purchase, construction or rehabilitation of affordable housing for owner-occupied or rental housing units.

The 2018 maximum subsidy award is $750,000 for a project and up to $40,000 per housing unit.

City staff became aware of the opportunity to apply for these funds at a recent Housing Institute meeting. Housing authorities are eligible to apply as a sponsor applicant and require the support of an FHLB member to submit. Alliance Bank is a member bank and has indicated their support for the application.

Bregel recommended applying for a small amount of funding this year, to create an owner-occupied rehab pilot program. The suggestion was to apply for three projects at $40,000 per unit for a total of $120,000.

If demand is high, the EDA could apply for addition funds in 2019.

Assistant City Manager Chris Dalton said programs are used by low to moderate income families to get the repairs they needed. The funds could be used to get homes up to code by fixing the roof, attic, windows or adding insulation.

Dan Braam said this was a common theme in the community. People want to keep their homes up to date. This was a popular option for seniors who can no longer do maintenance work on their own, but otherwise can stay in their home.

In other news, the board adopted the revised income limits for Brown County Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher and Public Housing Program. The median family income for a household of four in Brown County increased from $67,900 to $70,300. Very low-income families are defined as those whose income does not exceed 50 percent of the median family income for the area. Based on this definition a family of four with a median income of $35,150 is now considered a very low-income family.

Economic Development Corporation Coordinator Brian Tohal gave an update on activities for April. Tohal said he has met with a consultant representing Windings on incentives related to an expansion.

Tohal spoke with Dennis Skluzacek, plant manager of Elkay. The company is planning on holding a job fair before the plant closes. There are over 20 businesses looking to interview the Elkay employees. No time table was established for this job fair or the eventual closing of the plant, but Tohal believes this would happen in the early summer.