Four months ago, the Idaho Housing and Finance Association announced it had come up with most of the money needed to build 40 Housing First apartments for homeless people in a project close to Downtown Boise.
That money, expected to be around $5.8 million, would come from the sale of federal tax credits that IHFA allocates. It would cover most of the anticipated $7.3 million cost of construction.
Now, the Boise City Ada County Housing Authority is allocating money to cover a big chunk of the rent and other ongoing costs at the project. It is the first housing authority in Idaho history to assign housing vouchers to a project instead of allowing low-income clients to choose their own homes and apply the voucher amount to the rent.
On Thursday, the housing authority awarded enough voucher money to cover rent and supportive services such as treatment for addiction, mental and emotional health problems, and job training. The anticipated cost for these items is about $290,000 per year, said Deanna Watson, the housing authority’s executive director.
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The voucher money was awarded to Pacific West Communities and Northwest Integrity Housing Company, a group that plans to help develop the Housing First project and was the only respondent to the housing authority’s solicit for bids. Both sides have to work out a few details of the voucher agreement still, including the length of their contract and a more thorough examination of the source of construction money.
Housing First is an approach to solving homelessness that, as its name suggests, makes housing the top priority for chronically homeless people. Supportive services are made available but aren’t required. Though tenants have to abide by basic rules that govern most renters, they aren’t required to stay clean or sober.
The idea is that putting chronically homeless people into homes and allowing them to voluntarily take advantage of the services is the most effective way to help them live healthier lives. Several major cities around the country, including Salt Lake City and Houston, have shown major reductions in costs associated with homelessness, including ambulance trips, hospital visits and stays in jail.
The city of Boise has pledged $1 million of its own money to the project here.
At the same time these organizations are working on the money side of the project, the developers are ticking off the land-use details. On March 7, at the developers’ request, the Boise City Council rezoned the 1.15 acres that make up the south half of the block between Fairview Avenue and Main, 22nd and 23rd streets.
The project, if it’s built, will stand on the piece of land where the Twin Dragon restaurant, now closed, once operated.
Chad Weltzin of Erstad Architects said the developers are aiming for a Nov. 1 groundbreaking.