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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

County to participate in new housing program

Monday, June 18, 2012

County taxpayer dollars won't be used as Plymouth County joins Siouxland Interstate Metropolitan Planning Council's efforts to form a housing trust fund.

The county board of supervisors agreed last week to a one-year commitment to participate with Monona and Woodbury counties in housing trust fund to be formed by Siouxland Interstate Metropolitan Planning Council (SIMPCO).

A housing trust fund captures interest earned in dollars held in escrow accounts during the purchase of real estate and uses that interest to help provide housing for low-to-moderate income families in the area.

"I'm willing to go with SIMPCO for a year and see what happens," Supervisor Don Kass said. "I'm not willing to put up another chunk of money to get this money back."

SIMPCO earlier proposed that each county put $10,000 in to the pot to help with administration fees to form the housing trust fund, but that request was rescinded.

"Not for this year, but we might be back at the table next year," said Dwight Lang, SIMPCO co-executive director.

Terri Rosonke, Iowa Finance Authority's (IFA) housing Iowa development specialist, explained funding for housing trust funds comes through the state's housing trust fund from two main sources.

One is a $3 million appropriation from the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund and the other a percentage of the real estate transfer tax, she said.

When deciding how many dollars are available for local housing trust funds, the IFA looks at factors such as geographic locations, the type of trust fund and per capita population, Rosonke said.

"We establish the maximum they can request," she said. "There is a minimum 25 percent match from the local housing trust fund."

Lang told the Plymouth County Board of Supervisors last week SIMPCO's intent is to move forward with its plans to form a housing trust fund.

He asked the supervisors to join the effort, noting that even if they chose not to, SIMPCO planned to get started on the process with Monona and Woodbury counties.

"I think we will just proceed with what we have and apply and try to get certified and see where IFA sends us," Lang said.

He explained the IFA wants housing trust fund certification to be completed by the end of July and applications for dollars for housing trust funds to be submitted by late fall.

"You first have to get certified as a trust fund and then send an application," Lang said.

He added that in addition to seeking Plymouth County's support, SIMPCO also has to communicate with all the cities throughout the county to ask for their participation.

"It doesn't automatically include the cities," Lang explained. "We have to go and get those out to every city council."

Earlier this year the county board of supervisors received two requests to form a housing trust fund.

First came a request from Rita Frahm, Ida County economic development president, followed by SIMPCO's request.

In March the supervisors asked SIMPCO and Ida County, joined by Cherokee County, to work together to form a housing trust fund.

"I absolutely did not want Plymouth County to be the tie breaker in this thing," said Supervisor Craig Anderson.

Lang said SIMPCO and the other group had been unable to reach an agreement as to how a housing trust fund would be formed.

"I did a lot of communications, tried to answer questions and respond," Lang said. "I've asked questions and I don't really have any responses back from them. It's been frustrating."

Frahm, who did not attend last week's Plymouth County Supervisors meeting, said she was unaware of SIMPCO's intentions to move forward without Ida and Cherokee counties on board.

"The last thing we knew we were trying to do something (together)," Frahm said.

She said if SIMPCO chooses to go down its own path, it will be up to the people in Ida and Cherokee counties as to what their next steps might be.

An option may be applying to the IFA board for a waiver to allow two local housing trust funds in the same region, Frahm said.

"That's not something they (IFA) like to see happen. They would prefer everybody work collaboratively together," she said. "We were hoping to get to that point."

IFA's rules for local housing trust funds cover several topics including what geographic areas are eligible, Rosonke said.

They include:

* an entitlement city, a larger metropolitan area that receives direct housing appropriations funds, for example Sioux City which already has a housing trust fund

* a county in which an entitlement city is located, for example Linn County, where Cedar Rapids is, has a trust fund

* a council of governments in a region such as SIMPCO which serves Cherokee, Ida, Monona, Plymouth and Woodbury counties

Rosonke said there currently are 25 certified local housing trust funds in Iowa, which were created through legislation several years ago.

"Some have been around since the beginning," she said. "Some were certified this last round."

The Plymouth County Supervisors voted unanimously last week to join SIMPCO's efforts to form a housing trust fund with no up front costs. Supervisor Jack E. Guenthner was absent.

"This thing has been on the burner too long," Anderson said. "If it doesn't work, we'll leave in a year."

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