KETCHUM, IDAHO—Northwood Place opens the door for more people to live in this famed resort community.

The new apartment complex brings needed affordable housing to Ketchum, right by Sun Valley and the area's world-class ski slopes.

Developed by the Ketchum Community Development Corp. (CDC) and Vitus Group, a Seattle-based developer and owner of affordable housing, the project opened in November. It is the area's first all-affordable development.

The 32-unit development is home to retired people, a photographer's assistant, and other working families earning no more than 60 percent of the area median income (AMI). Two apartments are reserved for households earning no more than 30 percent of the AMI, and another is at 35 percent of the AMI. Regulatory agreements will keep the apartments affordable for 44 years.

Northwood Place aims to attract and retain residents in Ketchum, where the median home values are about $700,000. Many of the people who work in the area's tourism and service industries can't afford to live in the city.

“I appreciate the opportunity that the development has created—the opportunity to provide an affordable housing option for people who want to live and work in Ketchum,” says Rebecca Ralston, senior project manager at Vitus Development, the development affiliate of Vitus Group.

Rents range from about $375 for a one-bedroom apartment to $1,100 for a three-bedroom townhome.

“For new construction, there's nothing in that range here,” says Jon Duval, executive director of the Ketchum CDC.

ARRA funds

Developers put the $9.4 million project together at a turbulent time in the financial markets.

When they began assembling the financing in 2008, the price for lowincome housing tax credits (LIHTCs) was consistently in the mid-$0.80 range. But when Northwood Place received a LIHTC reservation in early 2009 from the Idaho Housing and Finance Association (IHFA), tax credit prices had begun to plummet. Developers were now looking at prices in the $0.60 range, a level that made the project financially infeasible.

Fortunately, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided stimulus funds to assist stalled LIHTC developments across the country. Working with IHFA, Northwood Place's developers secured $7.5 million in Tax Credit Exchange Program funds and $230,000 through the Tax Credit Assistance Program.

Northwood Place is the first LIHTC project within the Sun Valley area, according to developers, who hope the project will lead to additional affordable housing in Ketchum.

The exchange funds were invaluable in financing the development, but they created a new twist in the deal. The size of a permanent loan was significantly reduced, which meant some banks were no longer interested. Vitus and Ketchum CDC had to look for a new lender. The Idaho-Nevada Community Development Financial Institution stepped in to provide a $1.7 million permanent loan.

Melting snow, utility bills

Besides its affordability, Northwood Place stands out for its green design.

The development uses structural insulated panels, a prefabricated wall panel system that maximizes the energy efficiency of the building envelope by as much as 30 percent.

A resident of a one-bedroom apartment had a utility bill of just $20 during a recent winter month. At a conventional apartment, the bill would have been about $100.

A ground source heat exchange system generates energy to melt snow on the walkways and drive areas on the property. While this and the other green features added to the initial development costs, they resulted in trade-offs, says Ralston.

For example, the ground source system eliminates the need to shovel, remove, and store snow on-site, all of which can be very costly endeavors for properties located within the Wood River Valley. Furthermore, eliminating the need for snow storage on-site translated to additional living space for the development.

In addition, 257 solar photovoltaic panels power much of the common areas, which will save on ongoing utility costs. Duval says it is one of the largest noncommercial solar installations in the region.