On Thursday April 18th, Anawim Housing held a press conference to inform the public on the status of the Merle Hay Apartments project.
On April 3rd, 2019, the Iowa Finance Authority made its annual awards of low income housing tax credits. Among the awards was the Merle Hay Apartments. This Project is slated for construction on a previously undeveloped outlot of Merle Hay Mall along Douglas Avenue. As it stands today, the Urbandale City Council refuses to update the zoning to allow for the project to be built.
During the Press Conference, we will inform the public on the status of the project, what will happen with the $7,500,000 if the project is not built and the current gaps in affordable housing in Urbandale.
While we as a community highlight National Affordable Housing Week, the Urbandale City Council refuses to meet their own 2018 strategic goal of affordable housing as a high priority.
Located on a parcel between 6301 and 6325 Douglas the proposed Project would create 43 new apartment units, primarily targeting working families making approximately $50,000 a year or less.
• Total Project Cost: $9 million ($7.5 million in tax credit financing and $1.5 million in developer financing)
• Site Amenities: Nearby employment, highly walkable, ample parking, nearby public transportation, nearby shopping
• Annual Property Tax Revenue $90,000
• Financial Request of the City of Urbandale: $0
The City staff often referred to the 2006 Comprehensive Plan as the reason to deny support for the Project. However numerous places throughout the plan provide direct support for the land use we propose. The following are a few of these areas briefly summarized:
1. “Revitalize the ‘Downtown Urbandale Neighborhood’ commercial district.
Redevelopment of the former Montgomery Ward Auto site (proposed site)
3. “Change the zoning to reflect current conditions…”
“It would be beneficial to downzone some of the commercial areas along Douglas Avenue, to concentrate the retail into the 70th & Douglas area…”
9. “Promote new housing construction in existing neighborhoods, particularly DUN (Downtown Urbandale Neighborhood).”
Anawim and the developers worked continuously to provide a solution for each of the areas the staff and Council pointed out to be issues with the Project. The approach taken by the staff and ultimately by two of the Council members was to work to find errors in an otherwise good project rather than seek solutions to make it viable.
In the end this decision will result in the loss of $7.5 million in funding for this project, $90,000 in annual property tax revenue and an affordable place to call home for 43 Urbandale families.
Meanwhile the Council’s very own strategic goals go unmet as according to their own 2018 Strategic Plan – Affordable Housing is a high priority. https://www.urbandale.org/DocumentCenter/View/7418/Plan-in-Brief---2018?bidId=