Courtesy photo: ICAP families break ground Sept. 2 on “The New Neighborhood,”
on the west edge of Brookings.

When general talk of homeownership comes up, a frequent topic is “affordable housing.” 

It can be a relative thing. However, Dana Whitehouse, housing programs director for the Mutual Self-Help Housing program of the Inter-Lakes Community Action Partnership defined it in simple terms.

“It’s a combination of the family having enough income to support their mortgage payment and their living expenses and also not making too much to exceed the program,” she explained, as that combination, a sort of balancing act, applies to ICAP. “Because the loans come through the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) Rural Development.

“They define affordable housing by meeting the established income limits while still earning enough to support the cost of their mortgage and other living expenses.”

And an ICAP effort to provide 10 families with affordable housing got underway on Sept. 2, with a groundbreaking of “The New Neighborhood” in the Timberline Addition in Brookings. 

Among those present for the ceremony were Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD at-large); Brookings Mayor Keith Corbett; ICAP Executive Director Cindy Dannenbring; USDA Rural Development State Director Julie Gross; Whitehouse; real estate developer Paul Moriarty; and real estate broker David Kneip.

Moriarty was “recognized for his efforts to promote affordable housing, which go back to the late 1990s with ICAP.” He and Kneip worked with the City of Brookings on the TIF (tax increment financing) for the project. 

Wikipedia explains that a TIF is “a public financing method that is used as a subsidy for redevelopment, infrastructure, and other community-improvement projects …. Through the use of TIF, municipalities typically divert future property tax revenue increases from a defined area or district toward an economic development project or public improvement project in the community.”

‘Sweat equity’ gets it done 

Moriarty has worked with the ICAP program over the years. ICAP has been responsible for the building of more than 165 affordable houses over the years, most of them in the city of Brookings but a few in Volga and Aurora.

For this build of 10 houses, families have been divided into two groups of five families each. Each group will work together to build the homes of its five families. 

The families are putting in 65 percent of the labor – “sweat equity,” 30 hours per week on the houses they are building and will occupy. An on-site construction supervisor oversees all the work of the homebuilders, teaching them the skills necessary to construct their homes.

The supervisor answers questions and shows the families how to do the work, which can include: shingling, installing windows and doors, siding and sheetrock; insulation; countertops; flooring; trim; and interior paint.

“It’s like a part-time job where they earn the equity for the bill,” Whitehouse explained. “We have established job-site hours. A lot of that happens in the evenings and on Saturdays and Sundays, afternoons.

“Everybody will be working mutually on each others’ homes. Nobody in the group moves in until the whole group is finished.”

One aspect of this program that Whitehouse pointed out is that there is no live-in requirement for these homes. 

“They put that work in and at the end they own the equity and they own the home,” she explained. “The owner can sell it at any time; but that doesn’t often happen.

“We find for the most part the homes that we’ve built, the families stay in them. We’ve had a few cases where they’ve moved out of town or changed jobs and have moved. But we find that they stay in the homes for a great period of time.”

The Mutual Self-Help Housing Program started in 1996. Whitehouse started with ICAP in 2003. She became housing programs director in 2008; during that time she has seen 68 houses built. This TIF allows for additional affordable housing to be built in the future in the Timberline Addition.

Anyone interested the program is encouraged to contact Whitehouse in person at her office at 601 Fourth St., Suite 105, Brookings; or call 692-6391.

“We work with them when they come in the door interested in the program, through the application phase to the end of the bill,” she said.

Contact John Kubal at jkubal@brookingsregister.com.

Courtesy of The Brookings Register

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