By Susan Redden
State and city officials on Tuesday celebrated the first housing complex completed with state tax credits in the wake of the Joplin tornado.
Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder was the guest speaker at an open house for the new Delaware Duplex Community, which will provide affordable housing for 20 families on a site where a grouping of duplexes stood before the May 2011 tornado.
As lieutenant governor, Kinder heads the Missouri Housing Development Commission, which provided tax credit financing for the $3.8 million project, located on Delaware and Maryland avenues just south of 20th street.
Kevin Parker, developer, said help from the state allows rents to be set at rates for residents who need affordable housing in the wake of the tornado. The first units are being rented, and there is “a substantial waiting list,” he said.
Parker said much of the rental property destroyed by the tornado was older homes, with rents reflecting the age of the building and markets at the time. He recalled that after the tornado, his office was “swamped with calls” from people needing affordable housing. He said much of the rental property he owned was damaged or destroyed.
“You can rebuild what was lost, but that involves higher costs and higher rents,” he said. “The challenge is to develop rentals that would be affordable for working families, and that’s where the state comes in. The MHDC brought the solution to the table.”
Kinder said the state was excited to be involved in the project as part of Joplin’s recovery.
“The only way Joplin will fully recover is for working families to be able to move back,” he said.
He noted that the developer used concrete slabs and other infrastructure left from the previous housing. That, combined with state tax credits, allows the properties to be offered for $425 per month, when costs would be in the range of $895 to $925 without state involvement.
The gathering attracted representatives of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce for a ribbon-cutting, along with Joplin city officials and most members of Joplin’s legislative delegation. State Rep. Bill White, R-Joplin, who represents the district where the duplexes are located, praised the quality of construction. He said he wrote a letter in support of the project after the developer responded to his questions about whether the properties would be affordable to heat, cool and maintain.
“We need a lot of affordable housing,” White said. “If the rent is affordable but your electric bill is $300 a month, that’s not affordable. Thanks for doing it right.”
The celebration also attracted the first renters in the complex, Tiffany and Andrew Seavy, and their young son. The couple lived with family when they moved to Joplin last July from Maine, where Andrew Seavy had served eight years with the Coast Guard. Now, he is attending Missouri Southern State University on the GI Bill, he said.
THE 1,450-SQUARE-FOOT DUPLEXES have three bedrooms, and two and a half bathrooms. Each has a garage and a storm shelter.