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Housing trust fund program is introduced

By Staff | Jul 23, 2008

Frank Owens, ISU Extension economist, right, discussed regional housing authority trusts with the Emmet County Board of Supervisors Tuesday. From left are Emmet County Board of Supervisors Chair Alan Madden, supervisors Ron Smith and Randy Beaver and Owens. EDN photo by Michael Tidemann

The Emmet County Board of Supervisors Tuesday heard a presentation on regional housing trust funds by a representative from Iowa State University Extension.

Frank Owns appeared with Carol Keizer, planner with Northwest Iowa Planning and Development.

Owens noted 600 local housing trust funds nationwide. He said the funds start through local initiative and address housing needs in designated areas. With high housing costs, Owens said trust funds help lower-income people realize their dreams of home ownership.

Iowa in particular can benefit from regional housing trust programs since more than 50 percent of homes were built before 1979, which means they may have lead-based paint.

New housing costs $150,000 and up, making new home ownership difficult for many people, Owens said. He noted a need for transitional housing for new residents, first-time home buyers and families earning 80 percent or less of average middle income.

Keizer noted that in Emmet County 80 percent of the housing was built before 1960.

While the cost of housing is dropping nationwide, Owens said the national average to build a new home is $199,000. Meanwhile, the average Iowa home is valued at $82,500, Owens said.

Owens said Iowa has a large percentage of elderly who live on fixed incomes, another group that can benefit from a local housing trust program.

To form a trust, Owens said the first step is to form a housing trust fund board. It generally takes a minimum of nine months from the time the board first meets for a trust find to be established.

Owens said a regional housing trust fund program should be built around the local community that it serves.

In a question-and-answer session that followed, Supervisor Roger Anderson asked whether there would be an emphasis on people with special needs or the handicapped. Owens said that would depend on the mission designated by the regional housing trust board.

Owens said he could provide technical assistance for anyone wishing to set up a regional housing trust fund. In addition, he said a law firm is available at no cost that can help regional trust fund boards with their 501c3 applications.

The board decided to take the matter up further at its July 29 meeting.