The Springfield City Council knows that about one in three households puts more than 30 percent of its yearly income toward housing. With that statistic in mind, the council voted 8-0 to give a $300,000 low-interest loan to two developers who want to build affordable apartments in the Fassnight neighborhood.
Nordic Landing is a proposal for a $9 million, 41-unit apartment complex at 810 W. Catalpa Street, just west of the intersection of Catalpa and Grant Avenue, and just north of Fassnight Creek. The property is a stone’s throw away from Parkview High School’s JFK Stadium. Debbie Hart and Tammy Creason are the developers.
“We are really excited about this project because we think it is a huge win in terms of economic development along the Grant Avenue Parkway,” Hart said. “I think it’s really important that we have socioeconomic diversity included within our developments. We think that’s a really positive thing for this area.”
The developers are aiming to secure additional funding for the apartment complex by qualifying for the Missouri Housing Development Commission’s Low Income Housing Tax Credit. The developers are also attempting to access federal community development block grants. They will need an environmental release from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in order to demolish existing structures on the property.
“It is a bad place right now in terms of the existing structures, or the ones that are left,” Hart said.
Hart said that only about 33 percent of the applicants for MHDC grants get funding. The $300,000 loan from the city of Springfield would be paid back in monthly increments at a 0.75-percent interest rate. The money would be used for the developers, doing business as DHTC Development, to help purchase the property.
“We wanted to show that the city of Springfield was supportive of this, not just to send a letter, but to show that they are willing to put funds in the project,” Hart said. “This layer of financing shows city support, and we think that’s meaningful when they have a very competitive cycle trying to figure out what projects they’re going to fund.”
Affordable housing in Springfield
The one- and two-bedroom units for rent at Nordic Landing will be a combination of market rate and affordable housing units. In the development plan, there are five market rate units, seven units for youth aging out of foster care and 29 units at affordable housing rates, where the rent depends on the tenant’s income.
“This is really great; I think that more mixed-income projects are needed in this community, I think that they help foster and build community, so this is awesome,” Councilwoman Heather Hardinger said.
Boys & Girls Club of Springfield is building a three-story, 44,000-square-foot center for middle and high school students on the Grant Avenue Parkway.
Hart has experience working with youth who aged out of the Missouri foster care system with other housing developments.
“It’s a hugely vulnerable population because they have no safety net,” Hart said. “It’s a difficult population to serve, but certainly well worth it.”
The city of Springfield hired a team of consultants to examine issues of housing and homelessness from several angles. The consultants reported their findings and delivered some recommendations to the Springfield City Council at a meeting July 26.
Chris Andrews, owner of Mountaintop Consulting, presented some data on poverty.
About 33 percent of Springfield renters and homeowners put more than 30 percent of their income into rents or mortgage payments, utilities and other general housing costs.
“One in every three households is cost-burdened, [and] is paying more than 30 percent of their income for housing,” Andrews said. “As we look at the actual numbers, we’re seeing that 12,500 households are paying more than half of their income — more than half of their income — for housing on a monthly basis,” Andrews said.
This type of income deficit compared to housing costs, Andrews said, is dangerous and makes the people paying such relatively high costs to rent vulnerable to homelessness if anything changes.
Springfield Assistant Director of Planning Brendan Griesemer made note of this finding when explaining the loan bill to the City Council during its introduction July 25.
“As you know, there is a shortage of affordable housing that has been identified in the city and this project would assist in closing the gap on much-needed housing,” Griesemer said.
The Springfield City Council voted to give a similar $300,000 loan to The Kitchen, Inc. for the development of the Maplewood Villas with a bill passed June 13.
“This is the exact same loan and loan terms that you approved back in early June for The Kitchen’s affordable housing project out on West Chestnut Expressway,” Griesemer said.
‘A dangerous, dangerous area‘
Councilman Mike Schilling notes that some criminal activity has occurred on the Catalpa Street property.
“That whole area has turned into just a dangerous, dangerous area, and the house on the property burned here a month ago, and so it will be good to get some resurrection to rehab that whole area,” Schilling said.
Councilman Richard Ollis spoke in favor of the project, especially in light of the idea of a troubled piece of property in the Grant Avenue Parkway route standing to undergo significant improvement.
Springfield’s city planners hired consultants to study part of Grant Avenue to weigh its potential for modern urban development, and to determine how it can best be transformed into a destination district. The city of Springfield announced Feb. 16 that it hired planning consultants from PGAV Planners to study the section of Grant Avenue that…
“I think this is a terrific project on a number of fronts,” Ollis said. “One, providing more affordable housing to our residents; two, I think it jumpstarts the parkway, we want and need development along that parkway and I think this can be a part of that, and then; three, I’ve driven down there, and I can tell you if it’s not the worst area in Springfield, it is darn close.”
Hart hopes new development and a new identity will turn the apartment complex into a quiet place where neighbors are good to one another. She explained the choice of the name “Nordic Landing.”
“It’s across the street from Parkview — Parkview, the Vikings, and I am a Parkview graduate,” Hart said.
There is about six acres of land to the north of JFK Stadium, and the Nordic Landing development site is 2.8 acres in size. That’s a deceptive number, Hart says, because much of the acreage is in a floodplain.
Before any existing structures are razed, Hart and Creason need environmental permits from the federal housing authority to proceed with clearing the land.
“We still do not have that HUD environmental release,” Hart said. “We are ready, willing and able to take down the remaining structures once we have the HUD release to do that, because it is a terribly dangerous situation. We have to have that HUD release of funds before we can go forward with that MHDC closing.”
Council members also asked City Manager Jason Gage about a timeline of events, and Gage wasn’t able to offer much, other than to say that the city of Springfield intended to allow the project to move as quickly as possible. The local government is one of three layers of government with hands in the project.
“Because it deals with low and moderate-level incomes, it involves state agency and also federal agency, and so we’re working with the developer to work through the guidance from those agencies and try to figure out how to move this as fast as we can,” Gage said.
In total, Springfield will receive about $3.8 million to combat homelessness through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Home Investment Partnership program. The City Council voted 8-0 on June 27 to accept the HOME-ARP grant allocated through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). About $2.2 million will go to shelter housing development, and another $1 million will go to rental housing development.