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Road Home hopes to keep building as affordable housing

Published: Tuesday, March 6 2012 11:40 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — The nonprofit operator of Utah's largest homeless shelter plans to acquire a downtown apartment building to make sure it remains as affordable housing.

The Road Home has applied for a $405,000 loan from Salt Lake City's housing trust fund to help it purchase and renovate the Wendell Apartments, a 33-unit affordable housing building at 204 W. 200 North.

The nonprofit social service agency already has secured that same amount from the state through the Olene Walker Housing Loan Fund, said LuAnn Clark, Salt Lake City's director of Housing and Neighborhood Development.

The building's current owner, Multi-Ethnic Development Corp., has struggled to maintain the property and has been looking for a nonprofit housing group to take over ownership, city officials said.

The Road Home hopes to step in to prevent the property from falling into foreclosure.

"(The goal) is to maintain this housing as affordable so we can continue to house people with special needs, people who are chronically homeless or people who are aging out of foster care," Clark said.

Unless The Road Home or another agency is able to purchase the property, it's unlikely the building would remain as affordable housing, she said.

During a meeting with the city's Housing Trust Fund Advisory Board in January, Matt Minkevitch, executive director of The Road Home, called affordable housing a "lifeline" to help people get out of the sheltering system and back into the community.

Developing and managing the Wendell Apartments, Minkevitch said, is part of The Road Home's vision to help reduce homelessness throughout the community.

The City Council is expected to vote on the issue later this month.

Clark said the project meets the criteria for a loan from the housing trust fund, which is designed to "preserve and attract new affordable housing in Salt Lake City," she said.

If the loan is approved, current tenants would be allowed to remain in the building, and no one would be displaced during renovations.

Because the property has struggled financially, maintenance projects at the apartment building have been put off for several years.

During the proposed renovation, one of the units will be converted into a case management office to assist current and future tenants. Those services will be funded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, state programs and private donors, officials said.

As part of the 30-year loan, The Road Home has requested that payments be deferred for two years to allow for the building to be renovated.

The Housing Trust Fund Advisory Board in January voted unanimously to recommend approval of the loan. Mayor Ralph Becker also has reviewed and signed off on the loan.

The city currently has nearly $3 million in its housing trust fund.

Email: jpage@desnews.com

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