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[Photo: The Springs in McCall, Idaho]
The Springs in McCall, Idaho

MCCALL, IDAHO - Like "Voldemort" for all but one wizard at Hogwarts, there's been a time when many dared not speak the words "recovery" or "stimulus."

That may be changing. Just the other day, for example, an official with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce actually acknowledged that the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009 may, in fact, have done what it was supposed to do and given the economy a boost.

Some folks in McCall, Idaho might be inclined to say "ditto." They live in The Springs, a 36-unit complex built by the Idaho Housing and Finance Association's Housing Company in McCall on land donated by Valley County and with Federal low-income housing tax credits, a grant from the U.S. Green Building Council, an IHFA loan and Tax Credit Assistance Program (TCAP) funds provided by HUD under, you guessed it, the Recovery Act.

The Act - and TCAP funding - came along at just the right time for many affordable housing developments in the works across the country. It's pretty common practice for a significant part of the financing in such projects to come from the Federal low-income housing tax credits that raise needed capital by selling tax credits to investors on Wall Street and elsewhere who are looking for ways to reduce their tax liability.

As a result the troubles on Wall Street and the consequent national economic downturn, in 2008 and 2009 investors were scarce and developers like Idaho Housing and Finance Association had a difficult time selling all the credits required to make the numbers on projects like The Springs work and allow construction to go forward. Fortunately, the Act in general and TCAP in particular filled the gap at The Springs and hundreds of other stalled affordable housing developments to go forward.

First and foremost, of course, The Springs was designed to be affordable, in this instance to people earning up to 60 percent of the area median income, said the company's Douglas Peterson.

But it was also designed to be green. In fact, greener than green, with insulated panes on exterior walls and roofs, solar-powered light poles, an Energy Star lighting package, and high efficient plumbing and fixtures in each unit. No surprise, it's applied for LEED Platinum status.

That's good news for the residents, but the even better news is that the Company estimates that the "current tenants in the three bedroom units will pay an average of $75 month" - yes, just $75 a month - "in utilities including heat, AC and all electric appliances." McCall's hot in the summer, cold in the winter. But residents of The Springs won't have to worry about the utility costs associated with either. No wonder resident Rita Rubbert said, "I absolutely love it here."

Residents aren't the only ones raving about The Springs. So too are the folks at Idaho Smart Growth, a non-profit formed in 2001 to work, Rachel Winer, its executive director, told The Idaho Business Review, "works with communities to ensure that growth is manageable and sustainable." It's just announced the eight winners of its 2011 Grow Smart award winners. The Springs took the residential category, an example of how we can "keep our communities vibrant and our landscapes healthy."

The Springs, of course, would never have happened had it not been for the vision of the people of McCall and the hard work of the Idaho Housing and Finance Association and The Housing Company. And thank goodness the Recovery Act was there to help when a project so sound, smart and sustainable needed one more push to get across the finish line.


Content Archived: December 2, 2013

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