This story was originally published in Affordable Housing Finance.
Ten years after the need was first identified in the city of Grand Forks, N.D.’s plan to end long-term homelessness, local and state officials celebrated the successful completion of LaGrave on First.
The permanent supportive housing (PSH) project will be home to 42 individuals who have experienced chronic homelessness. The development is following the Housing First approach, where tenants are rapidly housed and then offered services to address the issues that are the cause of their homelessness.
While officials celebrated the recent opening of LaGrave on First, construction began on another PSH project in Bismarck. Edwinton Place will offer housing and support services to 40 individuals who have experienced homelessness in the area.
The developments will go a long way to ending homelessness in the state.
“LaGrave on First is unique in that it pairs permanent affordable housing and supportive services in the same building,” said Terry Hanson, Grand Forks Housing Authority (GFHA) executive director. “By having services on site, we are able to immediately address the physical and mental health, substance abuse, education, or job training needs of these individuals.”
Grand Forks Homes, Inc. (GFHI), the property owner, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing affordable housing for low- and moderate-income families. GFHA is the developer and will manage the property. The housing authority will leverage project-based Housing Choice Vouchers to ensure affordability for the extremely low-income households that will reside at LaGrave on First.
GFHA partnered with Beyond Shelter, Inc. (BSI), to develop LaGrave on First. They patterned it after Cooper House, which opened in 2010 in Fargo, N.D., and was the state’s first PSH project for individuals who have experienced chronic homelessness. Through the Region IV Supportive Housing Collaborative, local service providers advocated for the development of a similar property in Grand Forks.
The city of Grand Forks donated the land on which LaGrave on First is constructed, a former city park, and $335,000 in HOME funds. The project is named in honor of Royce LaGrave, the city’s community development and housing authority executive director from 1966 to 1983. LaGrave was known for his resourcefulness and ability to bring about change.
Ninety percent of LaGrave on First’s development costs were covered by the North Dakota Housing Finance Agency (NDHFA). The state agency awarded federal low-income housing tax credits (LIHTCs) to the project, which provided almost $7 million in equity from U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corp. NDHFA also awarded $772,514 from the National Housing Trust Fund. The total project cost is $8.76 million.
“NDHFA prioritized the use of our limited development resources to address the state’s need for community-based permanent supportive housing to end chronic homelessness,” said Jolene Kline, the agency’s executive director. “While it’s easy for us to talk about what is needed, it’s much harder to achieve success especially when developing housing for individuals with complex needs. These project partners truly need to be commended for the housing and level of services they put together.”
Additional project financing included $500,000 from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines’ Affordable Housing Program; a $150,000 grant from the Otto Bremer Trust; and $10,000 from the Turtle Mountain Housing Authority.
Altru, Community Options, Northeast Human Service Center, Prairie Harvest Mental Health, Success Unlimited, and Valley Community Health Centers have agreed to provide supportive and medical services at the site.
Administrative offices, an exam room, an exercise room, a computer room, a commercial kitchen and dining room, lounge space, and a laundry room are on the first floor of the four-story building. The 42 one-bedroom apartments are on the upper floors.
Because most of LaGrave on First’s tenants are expected to arrive with minimal personal items, GFHI and GFHA have been working with area churches to outfit the apartments with the necessities needed for daily living—dinnerware, towels, bedding, and personal-care items.
In Bismarck, the Burleigh County Housing Authority (BCHA) is teaming with BSI to develop Edwinton Place, another Housing First development.
“Through the Housing First model, some of the barriers to rental housing entry are set aside. The individual is provided with a permanent, stable home and then support services are offered to address the underlying causes of their homelessness,” said Dwight Barden, BCHA executive director.
Chronically homeless individuals typically have mental health or substance abuse issues, a chronic health condition, or a history of physical or sexual abuse. The need to provide supportive housing for these individuals was first discussed in 2008 in Bismarck-Mandan’s 10-Year Plan to End Homeless. Since that time, local service providers have been planning and educating key stakeholders to gain support for a PSH development.
“Beyond Shelter focuses on providing housing for the lowest-income households in a community, the people whose needs are typically overlooked,” said Dan Madler, CEO of BSI. “The underlying causes of chronic homeless not only negatively affects an individual’s ability to be successful in traditional rental housing, these issues are also very costly to the community.”
Funding commitments provided by NDHFA will cover the majority of Edwinton Place’s $10.3 million project costs. The state agency awarded federal LIHTCs that will provide about $7.2 million in equity as well as $1,026,147 from the National Housing Trust Fund, $500,000 from the state’s Housing Incentive Fund, and $460,000 from the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) 3.
Edwinton Place also received support from the city of Bismarck, in agreement with Burleigh County and the Bismarck Public School District, a 20-year payment in lieu of taxes for the property valued at more than $2 million. The North Dakota Department of Commerce committed $730,000 through NSP 1 for land acquisition. Through the Bank of North Dakota, the Federal Home Loan Bank awarded $750,000 from the Affordable Housing Program, and the Otto Bremer Trust committed $62,000 to help cover pre-development costs. The project’s construction financing will be provided by Gate City Bank.
Edwinton Place is being built on an infill lot just south of Bismarck Expressway and is within an Opportunity Zone designated by Gov. Doug Burgum earlier this year. The four-story building will have a controlled entrance with 24/7 staffing. On the first floor, offices, meeting rooms, and an exam room will allow for services to be provided at the site. The upper floors will be made up of 40 one-bedroom apartments. Eight of the units will be fully accessible for persons with a physical disability. All of the units will be furnished. The developers anticipate that the property will be completed by next fall.
The tenants will be selected in partnership with the local Coordinated Entry System, which is operated by agencies that provide service to people who are homeless. Project-based Housing Choice Vouchers will be provided by BCHA to assure the affordability of the units for the extremely low-income tenants.
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