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Low-rent housing opens in Yachats

Posted: Friday, Oct 9th, 2009




Eight units still available to rent in new Fisterra Gardens complex



The Housing Authority of Lincoln County (HALC) celebrated the addition of 25 units of affordable housing with the grand opening of Fisterra Gardens Apartments in Yachats on Wednesday.

Rent for a one-bedroom apartment at Fisterra Gardens is $385, and a two bedroom is $520.

The first of the complex’s three buildings received a certificate of occupancy in August. Seventeen of the 24 available dwellings (one apartment is for the onsite manager) have been rented.

To be eligible to lease a Fisterra apartment, renters cannot make more than 60 percent of the median income in Lincoln County, which is about $24,000 for a family of two. Because the project was built with federal affordable housing tax credits, the government sets the maximum rent at 30 percent of the 60-percent median income level. HALC could legally charge more than $600 a month in rent at Fisterra.

“We want to keep rents as low as possible and still be able to operate,” said Joanne Troy, director of the Lincoln County Housing Authority.

Troy praised the efforts of the Yachats community, including the city council and the Yachats Affordable and Workforce Housing Committee.

“In my 25 years in public housing, I’ve never had a city more cooperative,” Troy said.

Former Yachats City Council member Joel Evans said affordable housing is a crucial need in Yachats.

“When we have waitresses and motel maids commuting from Toledo at today’s prices, you can figure what that’s costing,” Evans said. “So much of what was low-rent housing has been bought up and improved, and we retirees have driven up the market.”

With the addition of the Yachats apartments, HALC now has close to 300 units in Lincoln County spread among several different low-income housing programs.

However, there are about 300 people on the HALC waiting list for affordable housing, a wait that can be anywhere from six months to two years.

“Our one bedroom waiting list is so long we closed it because it’s just going to be years long,” Troy said.

The $2.7-million apartment complex is a partnership between HALC and a private developer, Cascade Housing Group, LLC, financed with tax credits.

The federal government allocates affordable housing tax credits to states every year. In Oregon, the Oregon Housing & Community Development Department awards the tax credits to organizations through a competitive application process.

Once a project has been awarded, the tax credits are sold to businesses or investors who want to use them to keep more of their profits.

It’s a complicated system, but essentially the tax credits are sold for less than their face value.

In the case of Fisterra Gardens, HALC and its development partner, Cascade, partnered with the PNC Bank.

By selling the tax credits, Fisterra Gardens was built with little financing. Without a large mortgage to pay, HALC can keep the rents at an affordable level.

Troy said prior to the Reagan administration, money for affordable housing was given directly to the states. The downside to selling tax credits, she said, is that when the economy is bad, companies don’t have profits they need to offset with credits. Consequently, as the need for affordable housing such as Fisterra Garden increases, the demand for tax credits to finance it is going down.

“We closed this deal (Fisterra Gardens) right before the market went bad,” Troy said.

More information on Fisterra Gardens and other HALC housing programs can be found online at www.halc.info.



Larry Coonrod can be reached at 265-8571 ext 211 or larry@newportnewstimes.com.



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