The City of Driggs learned this week that it had been awarded a low income housing tax credit incentive of nearly a million dollars for a ten million dollar housing project on Front Street.
The Teton County Joint Housing Authority, a young board established in late 2019, leapt into action late this spring by proposing a LIHTC project in downtown Driggs. In a LIHTC project a developer is incentivized to build low income housing through a tax credit from the Idaho Housing and Finance Association.
Driggs staff, city council, and the Driggs Urban Renewal Agency responded with similar speed to move the proposal along; the council approved the use of a valuable piece of city-owned real estate east of the courthouse, and DURA committed funds toward public infrastructure to support the housing complex.
After issuing a request for qualifications, the city chose a developer in June; Northwest Real Estate Capital Corp. is a nonprofit firm that specializes in financing, building, and managing affordable housing. For Driggs, Northwest is proposing Depot Square, a 34-unit, three-story apartment complex with 30 units that are reserved for households whose incomes are between 30 and 60 percent of the area median income (currently $61,214 per year in Teton County). Right now there are 89 income-restricted units in three developments across the entire county, each with long waiting lists.
For people who make 30 percent of the AMI, a one-bedroom apartment will rent for $335 per month and a two-bedroom for $402; for households at 60 percent of AMI, rent will be between $700 and $900, still below the going rate of rentals in the valley.
In order to meet Driggs’ code for the downtown mixed-use zone, the apartments will have commercial and live-work spaces on the first floor fronting the sidewalk and streets.
According to a market study performed in August of this year, the location of the project is appealing because of its “attractive neighborhood amenities and good linkage to neighborhood services,” including proximity to major employers, shopping, restaurants, convenient public transit, and the new city park being built nearby in Tributary.
The study found that the rental vacancy rate in the valley stands at around one percent. Community Resource Center executive director Betsy Hawkins recently told the housing authority that housing is a top need among the nonprofit’s clients; “housing is exceedingly rare and what is available is incredibly expensive,” she observed.
In tandem with the housing project, the city will pursue outside funding for a large public infrastructure installation. On Nov. 17 the Driggs City Council approved a $500,000 community development block grant application, prepared by the Development Company out of Rexburg, to help pay for utilities, sidewalks, and the extension of Front Street. If the city receives the block grant, along with an additional $175,00 from DURA, construction on the street from Depot to the Burnside parking lot and utilities could begin late next spring.
“This is an exciting step forward for the project,” community development director Doug Self told the city council about the preliminary award of the tax credit last week. “It makes the block grant application that much more compelling.”
The members of council agreed. “I’m super excited about this opportunity,” council president August Christensen said.
Apartments could be available to rent by fall of 2022, with an application period opening a few months beforehand.