Housing vouchers sought to support Jeremiah Program

By Randy Petersen (rpetersen@postbulletin.com)

ROCHESTER, May 7th, 2018 – With plans and land in hand, pieces are falling in place for a new program aimed at helping single mothers escape poverty.

The Jeremiah Program still has some hurdles to clear in efforts to make its Rochester location a reality in 2020.

“In order to effectively run this program, we need to have a place for these families to live,” said JoMarie Morris, executive director of the Rochester program.

With an estimated $10.5 million in construction costs, the tax credits could provide equity to offset the price of building the complex that also would include a child-development center and offices for supportive services

Susan Strandberg, a community development officer with Three Rivers, said the tax credits are competitive, with one in four projects getting approval. The potential for dedicated housing vouchers will help the project score points in its application, she added.

“It helps in the long-term sustainability of the project, as well as making it competitive,” she said.

With a June 14 deadline for applying for housing tax credits, Jeremiah Program is seeking support from the Olmsted County Housing and Redevelopment Board, which oversees local vouchers for the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development program commonly known as Section 8.

The county program has the authority to set aside up to 20 percent of its 500 vouchers for specific programs to help offset housing costs. At this point, 20 local vouchers are committed to the 55-unit Gage East Apartments.

Morris said the local Jeremiah Program effort is hoping another 20 can be dedicated to the new project,

Without the housing vouchers, she said the local program would need to raise more funds to offset costs.

“I want to make sure when we have this building it’s going to go,” she said, noting the Jeremiah Program requires obtaining at least a year’s worth of operational expenses before construction begins.

The operating costs would be higher if federal waivers aren’t available to offset rent costs, which Jeremiah Program sets at 30 percent of a tenant income, or an average of $200 per month.

Olmsted County Commissioner Ken Brown, who serves on the HRA board as well as the local Jeremiah Program board, said the vouchers could be considered an investment for the county because the program’s participants likely already are receiving county support.

“They are in our system, whether it’s for child care, transportation, rent assistance or so on,” he said. “When they leave, they are off the system. They have a job as stable, tax-paying citizens.

“So, there is a return on the investment.”

Brown encouraged his fellow commissioners to consider the investment as a way to reduce future cost. He said Jeremiah Program’s 20-year history has proven it to be a good investment in other communities.

“This is a program that is attempting to get them off the system,” he said.

The HRA board, which includes Olmsted County’s seven county commissioners and one HUD program user, Angela Davey, will be asked on May 15 to approve the dedication of the vouchers.

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Originally published by Post Bulletin