CALDWELL - U.S. Senator Mike Crapo knows more than a thing or two about the nation's affordable housing crisis. A lot more.
Now serving his fourth term in the Senate, since his earliest days there he's been a member of its Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs which oversees HUD. Currently he chairs it.
Affordable housing, he told The Idaho Press, (www.idahopress.com/news/local/hud-secretary-ben-carson-visits-boise-and-caldwell-talks-affordable/article_b7eb9f6c-469c-5f91-b410-54a53979cb65.html) "is one of the biggest needs that we face in America right now, in terms of dealing with the less fortunate in our society," the Senator said.
It's no surprise, then, that Senator Crapo invited HUD Secretary Ben Carson to see what the crisis looks like on the ground in Idaho. No surprise, either, that the Secretary Carson accepted and visit in early August.
It was a bit of a whirlwind. Their first stop was in Caldwell, a city of more than 56,000 and seat of Canyon County which borders Washington State. It's home to IndieDwell, (https://indiedwell.com) a small but growing business that's made a big splash converting cargo containers into "sturdy, (www.idahostatesman.com/news/business/article223646985.html) well-built homes."
The Secretary had toured one of its homes in June when IndieDwell trucked one of its modular units 2,400 miles east to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. for HUD's Innovative Housing Showcase. Some of its first units also have been acquired, using HUD funds, by LEAPCharities (www.leapcharities.org) for the first phase of its solarized Windy Court development where families pay a very affordable $843 a month for four bedrooms, two baths, utilities included.
Joining the Senator, Congressman Russ Fulcher and Mayor Garret Nancolas, the Secretary got a first-hand look at the manufacturing process. "My expectation," he told The Idaho Statesman, (www.idahostatesman.com/news/business/article233704097.html) was "that they would look like containers that somebody had painted over and put a few amenities in. This is completely different. This is transformative, and it looks like a small site-built home. It's been done very well and (there's) a lot of creativity involved here."
Priced to sell for from $46,500 to $107,850, added the Senator, the units are "an incredible effort to reduce the cost of home ownership, not just the initial price point but the operational aspect as well."
Then it was off on a 30-mile drive east to the state's largest city Boise, the state capital and, in recent years, one of the fastest-growing metro areas in the United States to meet Idaho Housing and Finance Association CEO Gerald Hunter and two dozen other non- and for-profit housing leaders for an affordable housing roundtable at Mercy Housing Northwest's 53-unit 12th and River project built with funding from HUD's Section 202 for the very low-income elderly. The conversation, said Senator Crapo, (www.crapo.senate.gov/media/newsreleases/crapo-brings-hud-secretary-carson-to-idaho-to-discuss-affordable-housing) would explore "ways leaders in government and in the private sector are addressing challenges in the housing market."
"With cities like Boise leading the way," Secretary Carson said, "we're seeing partnerships forming in communities across the country that help preserve existing housing stock but also increase the production of new homes."
That's especially true in cities with residents like a 7-year-old go-getter named Grace that he met at the roundtable. Raising money from cookies she bakes and then sells at community events, The Idaho Press reported, once-a-month she hosts a birthday party for children at the Interfaith Sanctuary shelter for homeless families. "I believe that we can get rid of homelessness in this country." After all, he said, "it was Jesus who said, 'And a little child shall lead them.'"
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