A couple of affordable housing apartment complexes in the Chippewa Valley will undergo major renovations with help from a new state tax credit program.
The $197,613 in state housing tax credits awarded to the Wisconsin Preservation Housing Corp. will help with $1.39 million in budgeted improvements to Englewood Apartments in Eau Claire and Barrington Apartments in Chippewa Falls.
“It’s our chance to do some special stuff,” said Erich Schwenker, president of Cardinal Capital Management, the company that tends to the two apartment complexes.
The company has a laundry list of projects one would expect with any buildings made in 1982 — new roofs, replacing doors and fixing up parking lots — plus upgrades to make the units nicer for tenants. All 60 apartments will get new kitchen appliances, 37 of the units will get their kitchens and bathrooms remodeled entirely, and Wi-Fi will be added to all buildings. The Eau Claire apartment complex also will get a community room added onto it.
While the management company had done regular maintenance to the buildings through the years, Schwenker said the tax credits make it possible to do such a thorough overhaul of them.
The Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority was in charge of awarding the state tax credits, and representatives of that organization gathered Thursday morning outside Englewood Apartments to talk about the program’s impact.
“What we’re doing here today is going to make a difference,” said Brian Schimming, WHEDA’s deputy executive director and chief operating officer.
Using the tax credits commits property owners to reserve some of the apartments for affordable housing for the next 30 years, while the rest can be rented at market rates for seniors and families.
He likened the new tax credits created earlier this year by the state government to federal credits created in 1986 by Congress that led to public-private partnerships that built more affordable housing.
“If we didn’t have these tax credits, a lot of those projects simply won’t happen,” he said.
The tax credits spur private investment, which not only extends the life of affordable housing, but the upgrades also can help boost the value of their neighborhood, Schimming said.
While the improvements at Englewood Apartments and Barrington Apartments will improve life for residents there, a need for more affordable housing units persists.
“I’ve never seen it more as an issue as it is today,” Schwenker said, noting that a greater segment of the population needs affordable housing now than when the buildings behind him were made 36 years ago.
Englewood Apartments is usually full, and apartments go quick when they’re available.
A two-bedroom at Englewood Apartments that hits the market rents for almost $650 a month. However, many residents get their rent subsidized by the government due to their income.
“All the folks in this housing pay 30 percent of their incomes,” Schwenker said.
Public housing in Eau Claire intended for low-income residents also stays full, and there continues to be a waiting list, said Keith Johnathan, executive director of the Eau Claire Housing Authority.
Scott Allen, Eau Claire’s community development director, said renovation of the city’s existing stock of homes and other residential buildings is a way to address the need for affordable housing.
“We can’t just expect new development, new construction to address the affordable housing issues in the community,” he said during Thursday’s gathering outside the south side apartment buildings.
While the two projects touted Thursday morning in Eau Claire won’t add more units of affordable housing, Schimming said some of the other projects awarded the tax credits will add to the inventory in their communities.
Last week WHEDA announced winners of the state tax credits, which were created in March by a bill approved by the state Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker.
Authors of the bill included a provision that the credits only go to communities with 150,000 people or fewer — effectively ruling out Wisconsin’s biggest cities of Milwaukee and Madison.
In addition to the two Chippewa Valley apartment complexes, the $6.6 million in state tax credits announced earlier this month will help finance affordable housing projects in Fitchburg, Green Bay, Pleasant Prairie, River Falls, Sheboygan and Superior. Overall, the nine projects will impact 1,065 apartments.
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