JANESVILLE

City officials have spent the past several months advocating for new housing at all market levels to compensate for Janesville’s residential shortage.

The city council will consider approving Monday the first step of a low-income housing development, a 62-unit, three-level apartment building on the northern edge of downtown.

Under the project’s initial action, the city would sell three vacant parcels for $1 each to Commonwealth Holdings LLC. The parcels are located just north of the police department on the square block bordered by Jackson and Franklin streets, Laurel Avenue, and Centerway.

The developer also has an agreement to buy the privately owned parcel where Aaron’s Lock and Safe is located. Commonwealth tried unsuccessfully to reach sale terms with the owner of a multi-unit building on the square block’s northern half, city Housing Services Director Kelly Bedessem said.

The city’s transaction is contingent upon Commonwealth receiving an affordable housing tax credit from the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority. Tax credit applications are due Jan. 14, and the developer expects an answer by April, according to a city memorandum.

Affordable housing is a federal standard that requires tenants to earn below a certain income level to live in the building. For this tax credit program, the proposed building’s average tenant would need to make less than 60 percent of Rock County’s median household income, Bedessem said. That number was $53,410 in 2017; so 60 percent of that would be $32,046.

Preliminary plans include one floor of underground parking and an enclosed surface parking lot. The building, which does not yet have design renderings, would all be apartments with no ground- floor retail, she said.

Bedessem expects that, in addition to the WHEDA tax credit, the developer would also apply for tax increment financing and federal community development block grants allocated by the city.

Monday’s approval, which is included on the council’s consent agenda, would allow Commonwealth to show it had control of its planned location. That’s required for the WHEDA application, Bedessem said.

Down the road, the development would still have to receive approval at various stages from the plan commission and city council.

If the project becomes a reality, construction could start next fall with units available in summer 2020.

Bedessem said she is excited by the possibility of having more units on the rental market.

“It’s a daily occurrence where we have clients come to our front desk and are in tears or are very, very frustrated because they can’t find anywhere to live,” she said. “We can issue them a rental assistance voucher and they can be ready to go, and they can’t find a place. We’ve had rent assistance vouchers expire.”

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