Government

Neighbors: Not so fast on homeless housing complex

The proposed Cedar Rapids complex was awarded $8M in federal tax credits

DeAnn Schriner, 68, lives across from the site of a proposed affordable housing project on Edgewood Raod NW and Crestwoo
DeAnn Schriner, 68, lives across from the site of a proposed affordable housing project on Edgewood Raod NW and Crestwood Drive NW on Wednesday, June 22, 2016. She has collected 200 signatures from her neighbors, who have concerns about increased traffic congestion, flooding and drainage problems, and the 41 units slated as affordable housing for low-income residents. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Not so fast on a proposed affordable housing complex with units for the homeless, neighbors said this week.

The proposed Crestwood Ridge Apartments, at 1200 Edgewood Road NW, won $8 million in federal low-income housing tax credits this week — or $800,000 a year for 10 years — from the Iowa Finance Authority through a new Housing for Homeless demonstration.

But neighbors say they will resist the necessary rezoning from single-family to multifamily, contending the complex is too big and will lead to stormwater runoff, unsavory characters and more traffic congestion.

“I’m concerned now that they got that money it will just get rubber stamped,” said DeAnn Schriner, 68, who lives across the street and led a petition drive. “This is a busy street to begin with, and my fear is us to the south will get flooded.”

The City Planning Commission, which is an advisory body to the Cedar Rapids City Council, rejected the rezoning at an April meeting after receiving 215 signatures against the project. The proposal was removed from a May 10 City Council agenda and has been stagnant since — but is neither dead nor a sure thing, city officials said.

The City Council, which is not bound by the planning commission vote, must ultimately sign off.

Justin Eilers, with CommonBond Communities, which is proposing the 17,550 square-foot, three-story building near Fire Station No. 3, said Monday the plan was to begin construction next year with completion in spring 2018. However, on Wednesday, he said only there were “conversations” about the project’s future.

The planning process had been halted pending the outcome of the tax credit award, he said. Now that the project was successful, the developers plan to meet with neighbors to discuss concerns before seeking approval from the city, but nothing has been scheduled, he said.

The complex would include 45 units, including five providing permanent housing for homeless people and families with extreme barriers; 36 “affordable” units; and five market-rate units, as well as 90 parking spaces. The Willis Dady Emergency Shelter is a partner in the project and would provide on-site support for homeless residents.

Phoebe Trepp, executive director of Willis Dady, said the location is ideal for low income housing because of its proximity to Jackson Elementary School, grocery shopping and public transit.

“I think it is really common to say we are supportive of affordable housing, but we don’t want it in our backyard,” Trepp said. “We have a really quality developer interested in investing in a development long-term, but I feel people don’t want low income housing in their neighborhood.”

The city, which owns the land, had previous given signals of support for the project, including supporting the tax credit application. Earlier this year, the city accepted a bid to sell the 1.98 acres to CommonBond for $280,000, contingent on the tax credits, and city staff recommended the rezoning saying it lines up with the future use plan.

“Really, in my opinion, it’s an ideal location for a higher density residential development,” Joe Mailander, Cedar Rapids development services manager, said Wednesday.

City Council member Scott Olson, who represents the neighborhood, said the developer has a good track record and the city might look to the organization to help address some concerns, for example, by adding sidewalks or upgrading the road. He did not have a definitive position on Crestwood Ridge, noting he hadn’t seen final designs.

“I guess the issue is what is the nice fit from the neighborhood,” Olson said. “Edgewood has some factors you need for housing projects.”

Schriner and Boyd Severson, who also lives nearby, say they have not been contacted by the developer and virtually no neighbors heard about or attended an initial presentation earlier this year. Severson said he agrees with the need for additional low-cost housing but the plot about the size of a football field doesn’t make sense for so many units.

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“I know the city wants to do something with this property, but do it elsewhere or do it as a smaller scope,” Severson said. “There is no room for a play area, and the proximity to Edgewood Road is dangerous.”

Dave Vaske, low income housing tax credit manager at Iowa Finance Authority, said it is not unusual for a winning project to have outstanding approvals, and that if the permission isn’t granted within a year the award is returned.

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