CommonBond trying to salvage $8 million low income housing tax credit

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Officials from Cedar Rapids and CommonBond Communities, a non-profit developer behind low-income housing complexes, are investigating options for salvaging an $8 million federal tax credit promised for Cedar Rapids, but it appears unlikely to pay off.

Fueled by heavy opposition from neighbors questioning the suitability of the location, the City Council last week narrowly rejected rezoning vacant land for CommonBond’s proposed 45-unit Crestwood Ridge Apartments at 1200 Edgewood Rd. NW. The complex would have set aside five units for homeless tenants.

Unless an alternative is found, the award will return to the Housing Tax Credit Program administered by the Iowa Finance Authority.

“We are still evaluating what, if anything, can be done,” said CommonBond Housing Development Manager Justin Eilers.

He said without the tax credit, the organization can’t afford to do the project. Eilers said he has been in touch with the finance authority and the city about options.

The finance authority, which selected Crestwood Ridge as a demonstration site for homeless housing, confirmed what CommonBond said before the vote — that the award is site-specific.

“We just can’t move the project location to another site,” said Ashley Jared, communications director for the Iowa Finance Authority.

A developer could apply next year for a tax credit for another Cedar Rapids project, Jared said. Given the “comprehensive” scoring criteria, the CommonBond rejection wouldn’t hurt the chances of a future project in Cedar Rapids, she said, although the program is very competitive.

City Council member Scott Overland, who voted in favor of the rezoning, also contacted the authority about options.

“Certainly, the need for affordable housing isn’t going to get less,” he said. “It is going to get more over time.”

Eilers also has been asking if a revote is possible, which would matter only if a council members flipped from opposition to support.

“There’s no reason to think they will do that at this time,” Eilers said.

Neighborhood opposition triggered a requirement for a three-quarter majority to pass the measure. So with a 5-3 vote, the rezoning came up one vote short. One council member — Kris Gulick — cited a conflict and recused himself.

Council member Scott Olson said he would not change his vote. He said CommonBond got off on the wrong foot with neighbors and wasn’t able to find “synergy” with the neighborhood, which is in his district.

Mayor Ron Corbett said no new information has come to light to change his position.

Council member Justin Shields could not be reached for comment.

City staff reported last week that the northwest quadrant has only 84 of the city’s 1,080 low-income housing units.

The authority scored the project higher because of the proposed site, Eilers said. Besides the lack of low-income housing options, the site had a bus stop and was close to grocery and retail outlets and other amenities, Eilers said.

Opponents and supporters of the project agreed more low income housing is needed. But where is another matter.

“The city needs to offer leadership, and needs to decide this is a project that’s needed for Cedar Rapids,” said Phoebe Trepp, executive director of Willis Dady Emergency Shelter, which was going to provide support services for the project. “Three council members turned their back on the project and they are walking away. We aren’t walking away.”

Boyd Severson, who was among the opponents, said the project was met with skepticism and mistrust. CommonBond shouldn’t have proposed the Edgewood site to the authority without the rezoning and neighborhood support in place, and the authority erred in making the award without the rezoning confirmed, he said.

“CommonBond’s failure to pick a more suitable location was the reason this project failed,” he said.

l Comments: (319) 339-3177; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

 

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