Affordable Housing in La Crosse Gets Boost from ARPA Funds
Mississippi has given its approval for the utilization of a sum slightly more than $1.6 million, sourced from federal relief funds. These funds are set to be directed towards initiatives that target critical needs such as housing and clean water infrastructure in the community.
The unanimous approval from the Common Council on Thursday allowed the allocation of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. These funds will be used to facilitate a program assisting first-time home buyers, support the construction of new houses, and carry out an extension of the water main at Pettibone Park.
During 2021, the city received an impressive $21.75 million in ARPA funds, provided by the federal treasury, setting the stage for this series of projects.
Assisting first-time home buyers is a key priority. A down payment assistance program has been designed to help those purchasing a home for the first time who fall into the low-income bracket. This program received an allocation of $400,000, with the potential to provide assistance to around 20 to 25 households. Applicants for this program need to have an income of $37,590 or less to qualify – this is 120% of the county’s median income.
One condition of this grant program is that the homeowner has to sign an owner-occupied deed restriction which is valid for either 5 or 10 years. This guarantees that the home will be owner-occupied. The maximum grant for homes with a 5-year owner-occupied deed restriction stands at $15,000, while those with a 10-year restriction can receive grants up to $25,000. Approved grant recipients are then required to attend a federal Housing and Urban Development first-time home buyer education class.
In terms of mixed-income housing, a project is set to begin at Fourth and Jackson Streets, which is expected to yield 62 units of mixed-income housing. This project will accommodate diverse income brackets, including 13 units dedicated to individuals transitioning from homelessness, 10 units available at market rates, and the remaining units are targeted for households with incomes ranging from 50 to 60% of the county’s median income, or between $16,112 and $19,335.
To financially back this new construction project and bridge the funding gap, the council gave the approval to redirect $700,000 of the ARPA funds. Originally earmarked for the La Crosse River Marsh Lead Contamination project, these funds will now go to the Affordable Housing Revolving Loan Fund, supporting the project on Fourth and Jackson Streets. The project has also earned tax credits from the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority.
Moving on to the clean water infrastructure initiative, the project plans to extend the water main at Pettibone Park, which is currently being served by two separate wells. These wells supply water to the Pettibone bathhouse and the Pettibone Boat Club but are not connected to the city’s water system. In a report to the Common Council, Jay Odegaard, the director of the parks department, highlighted that the integration of these two sites would ensure a reliable supply of clean, non-contaminated water for public use.
Therefore, a sum of $510,000 of the ARPA funds, which was initially reserved for the River Marsh Lead Contamination Project, will be redirected to complete the Pettibone Park water main extension.
The city’s resolution states that the scope of work for the marsh contamination project has lessened over time, hence reducing the total amount of initially reserved funds needed for the project.