Webster, Hamilton counties hear idea of a local housing trust fund

Here’s another angle on the housing solution

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
A fire damaged abandoned home at 418 N. Ninth St. stands in contrast to the well maintained home around it.

Webster County is one of six Iowa counties that aren’t part of a local housing trust fund that receives state money to help low-income households, according to Vickie Reeck, the community and economic development director for Fort Dodge.

Reeck spoke to the Webster County Board of Supervisors recently about creating a regional housing trust fund so the area can take advantage of those Iowa funds.

“The state housing trust fund was created in 2003 to assist the development and preservation of low income housing in Iowa,” Reeck said. “The fund can be used to help households at 80 percent of the area’s median income.”

Currently, there are 23 local housing trust funds in Iowa, Reeck said.

Some larger counties are eligible to apply for funds on their own, but Webster and Hamilton counties are not, she said.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
A fire damaged and abandoned home at 418 N. Ninth St. stands in contrast to well maintained homes across the street.

Hamilton County is now interested in joining with Webster County to create a region.

“What it requires is for the area to get certified, and the request has to come from the county,” she said. “So we would need a resolution of support from Webster County to initiate this process.”

The region would be eligible to apply for $150,000 as a base each year, and then between $1 and $1.75 per capita of the population of those two counties, Reeck explained.

“Individual agencies can apply directly to the Iowa Finance Authority right now, but if we’d become a local housing trust fund, we could get an allocation of funds that people in our counties could apply to,” she said.

To become certified, the counties would create a board, with half its members from the general public and half of them elected officials.

“In addition we would have to write a Housing Assistance Plan which would describe the different programs we would have available in the two counties, whether that be a home ownership program, it could be rehab, it could be a rental program,” Reeck said.

The funds have to benefit households who are at 80 percent of the area’s median income.

Also, 30 percent of any funds received would go to households considered “very low income,” which is 30 percent of the median income.

There are no definite plans yet what would be done with any funding, Reeck said. The two counties together will come up with a plan.

“I think both are interested in doing an owner occupied rehab,” she said.

The program requires a 25 percent local match. This can come from the city, from the county, or even from donations, because the local housing trust fund will be a 501c3 organization.

“In Mason City their 25 percent match is made up of donations from local banks,” Reeck said. “The city of Fort Dodge would be interested in using our low and moderate income housing set-aside for our portion of the match.

“We would not be able to use that for the other cities in Webster County, because it can only be used for the city of Fort Dodge and anything within two miles of the city. So we’d have to have conversations with the other towns and see if they are interested.”

Interested towns could also pass a resolution of support, and then the group would need to decide how much each town would provide for their portion of the match, how applications would be accepted, and what programs would be offered.

“And each year you can change your housing assistance plan, so let’s say the first year we decide we want to do some housing rehab, get our feet wet, get the program going; next year we decide maybe we want to grow home ownership, have home ownership assistance programs.”

The program is reviewed annually, Reeck said.

If the supervisors give their support, work has to begin as soon as possible creating the board and setting up bylaws, so the certification application can be sent to the Iowa Finance Authority by June. If the region is certified, it could apply for funding in September; awards would be made in December and those funds would be available by next spring, she said.

To learn more about the statewide program, visit is.gd/LocalHousingTrustFund.

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