Housing partnership gives residents a way to grow

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

HUNTINGBURG — While Paragus Inc. has been the more visible company in the workforce housing project planned for Washington and Fifth streets in Huntingburg, a local community action agency has done a lot of the behind-the-scenes work.

Tri-Cap is a general partner in the development of a $5.8 million, 56-unit housing development at 419 N. Washington St., the former Wagon Works site. But the role of the Jasper-based agency that serves Dubois, Pike and Warrick counties is essential to the development’s success, said Gary Ritz, co-owner of Paragus.

“They provide counseling and education services and a wide range of services that the residents of this project will be eligible for, at no cost to the resident,” Ritz said. “If they weren’t involved, this development would not be happening. Tri-Cap is essential to this going forward.”

Tri-Cap has been involved in every step of the process, although the work has been done mostly behind the scenes.

“We couldn’t publicly talk about our role until our board officially gave its approval,” said Joyce Fleck, executive director of Tri-Cap. “But we’ve done a log of legwork on this.”

The board gave its official blessing on the project last week, now that many of the critical pieces are in place for the development to happen. But agency staff were active in getting those pieces in place.

“We worked with local officials on the zoning,” said Neil Elkins, housing services director for Tri-Cap. “We talked to the land owners. The application for the tax credits, we’re involved in that. We’re a limited partner, but an equal.”

The agency is a certified housing development agency and has been involved in other housing developments, including Stork Place, the Lofts at St. Joseph’s, and the development of five, single-family homes in Huntingburg. The agency is also a limited partner in the Vine Street and Jasper Lofts projects in Jasper.

“Every project is unique,” Fleck said. “No two housing projects are alike.”

People who live at the Paragus development will have access to services Tri-Cap provides, free of charge. Some of those are high school equivalency classes, parenting classes, vocational training, nutrition courses, energy efficiency classes; there will be more than 25 services to choose from.

“It’s not just giving them a place to live, it’s giving a way to grow,” Elkins said. “It’s really all of our services that will be made available to help them remain self sustainable and reduce their costs.”

Paragus must turn in its tax credit application for the workforce housing project to the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority by Monday. The process to get to this point has been a lot of work for those involved.

“We’ve had a committee working on this, and (Tri-Cap) board members were involved in that,” Elkins said. “Paragus has talked to our board a couple of times.”

And when it came time for last week’s vote, “The board had no hesitation,” Fleck said.

Tri-Cap’s involvement is a boost to Paragus’ application. “We can provide services to the residents,” Elkins said. “They will essentially have access to all of our services. And we are a certified housing development agency. So that gives this application an advantage.”

Another plus is the fact that Huntingburg is a Stellar Community, a designation it received in 2014. A perk of that designation is that there are $1.5 million in rental housing tax credits that have been designated for use by Stellar Communities only.

But the application must still be deemed worthy by the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority.

“We are so glad to have Tri-Cap on board with us,” he said. “Their support and involvement is a big boost for our application, and a major asset for the residents who will live at this development.”




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