POLK COUNTY -- The Polk County Community Development Corporation broke ground for 32 low-income townhouses last week.
The new complex is called Rickreall Creek Townhomes and is located on Walnut Street. It will include two- and three-bedroom units.
Polk County Community Development Director Rita Grady said the need for quality low-income housing is rising as rent across the nation skyrockets.
"There's a tremendous need for affordable housing," Grady said.
"What we are trying to do is target that group of people who aren't being helped by the housing authority," she said.
In 2002 Grady and her group opened its first median-income community in Dallas. Woodbridge Meadow on Dimick Street looks like a high end apartment complex.
Woodbridge Meadow manager Diana Lindley said she has people stopping all the time who want to rent from her and are disappointed to find out they make too much money.
"We want to give equal opportunity to people," Grady said.
"Just because you're a waitress, and a single mother, doesn't mean you shouldn't have a nice place to live."
Part of what Grady does is enable people to live in a safe place while they plan and prepare for a better future.
Her program sponsors classes for residents that teach them how to save for a home and how to apply for first-time home owner loans.
They also try to get people into the Valley IDA Program's matched savings accounts, which requires savers to set a goal, then matches them dollar for dollar.
"We really try to prepare people for home ownership ... some people have been here since we opened, and for some people this is just a short stop before they move on to the next step in their lives," Grady said.
According to the American Association of Realtors, rent is expected to jump 5.3 percent in 2006. That's two times the 2005 increase. And a USA Today report blamed April's consumer inflation spike to rising rents.
Programs like Grady's strive to restore options for the most vulnerable populations
Because it is nonprofit, the group is able to secure various state and federal grants to pay for construction. Grady said it also uses a number of tax breaks and credits, one of which allows a lower interest rate on its mortgage. That allows rents to be kept lower.
"We have to pay for things just like everyone else pays, but we have a larger variety of funding sources," Grady said.
A typical unit at Woodbridge Meadow, if it were in a standard complex, would rent for up to $800. Grady's group rents a three-bedroom townhome for $595.
Polk County Community Development was started in 1989 as part of the county's housing authority. In 2001, the group moved into its own offices on Main Street in Dallas and became a more independent group.
Grady said the new townhomes on Walnut will be for people whose income level qualifies them for public assistance.
"At Woodbridge Meadow we serve people who are 40 to 50 percent of the median income," Grady said. "At Rickreall Creek, we will serve people who are below that, even."
A constant waiting list exists for Woodbridge, and Grady expects the same for Rickreall.
For more information: Polk County Community Development, 503-831-3173.