Longtime residents of Port Falls, Idaho have learned that even the best-kept secrets can’t stay hidden forever. This idyllic town has tripled in size over the last two decades, and as in so many other mushrooming communities, the Port Falls housing stock has struggled to keep pace with the rising population. Prices climb, and folks with limited incomes see their odds at securing safe, decent, affordable housing fall.
In Port Falls, an expanding population was great for the economy, but it left elderly, fixed-income members of the community strained by rising housing prices. Fortunately, thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Port Falls was able to build 42 housing units for senior citizens – taking major steps to meet this rural community’s need for affordable housing.
From Region X, the HUDdle is happy to bring you this success story:
POST FALLS, IDAHO – Four miles east of the Washington-Idaho state line, eight miles west of Coeur d’Alene and in an area of “mountains and lush farmland,” its Chamber of Commerce beams, with “30 golf courses, the North Idaho Centennial Trail, 3 state parks, 55 lakes” and three ski resorts, Post Falls, Idaho is a little bit of paradise waiting to be discovered.
And, increasingly, it is. So much so, in fact, that the U.S. Census Bureau has just reported that Post Falls, population 26,000, is one of the fastest-growing cities in the state with more than 50 percent more people than a decade ago, more than three times as many as in 1990.
That’s good, even great news. More people mean more traffic in stores and restaurants, more folks buying homes and starting businesses, more things to do and more opportunities and reasons to stay close to home – for the graduates of local high schools and colleges.
Others might not be quite so ecstatic. The growth of a community’s housing stock, after all, almost always lags behind the growth in population. With more people but not enough housing, no surprise, prices rise and many for whom the community once was affordable begin to feel priced-out. That’s especially true for folks on fixed- incomes, like the elderly.
For them, then, the even better news might have been the early March groundbreaking for the $3.8 million, 42-unit Silver Creek housing complex for the elderly on 2.3 acres on the west side of Post Falls. It’s the second project to be built in town by Community Development, Inc. and, if things go according to plan, ultimately include a second phase – Silver Creek II – with another 40 units for people 55 or older.
The demand for affordable housing, CDI’s Tim Cobb told The Coeur d’Alene Press, “is really strong. There’s just not much available product that is exclusively for seniors” in Post Falls.
But Silver Creek almost didn’t happen. As first proposed, much of the financing depended on Federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits allocated by the Idaho Housing and Finance Association. The credits are sold to investors looking to reduce their tax obligations, providing the developer of with the capital to build affordable housing. With the collapse of the housing market in 2008, though, Wall Street investors were no longer gobbling up credits and, as a result, developers lacked the financial capacity to move projects from the drawing board into the ground.
Fortunately, President Obama proposed and the Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act which included funds for a HUD program – the Tax Credit Assistance Program – which closed the financing gap for projects like Silver Creek and, as HUD Secretary Donovan explained, “jump started” hundreds of stalled affordable housing projects across the country. Indeed, Idaho Housing and Finance has allocated TCAP funds for more than 430 affordable projects in Boise, Idaho Falls, Ketchum, McCall, Nampa, St. Maries, Wallace and, of course, Post Falls.
And it’s brought smiles to the faces of many, including Mayor Clay Larkin of Post Falls who, reported The Press, praised Silver Creek “for putting” 150 members of “the construction industry to work” and providing a “growing senior population” with affordable housing. “Seniors,” he said, “will be lined up to apply.”