ONTARIO — Concerns over the novel coronavirus COVID-19 has caused some changes to the basic functions of the city, which includes meetings of the City Council.
During Tuesday night’s regularly scheduled Ontario City Council meeting, some of the councilors and other city officials attending via teleconference to limit the amount of people present in the council chambers. Of those not physically present were Councilors Ramon Palomo and Marty Justus, Community Development Director Dan Cummings and City Attorney Larry Sullivan.
When it came time to discuss a new housing project, Mayor Riley Hill stated that he had to recuse himself from hearing anything related to this item of business.
“Because I’m intimately involved with the project, I’m going to step down and let the Council President take over,” stated Hill.
City Manager Adam Brown explained to the council that he drafted a short letter of support for the Trinity Project. He said that this is not like previous letters for other housing grant projects. Brown said he wrote Council President Dan Capron as a signer of the letter due to the fact that he knew the mayor is involved in the project.
“This project is to bring forty-five new single family homes and, with a co-located child care facility on site,” said Brown.
Council President Dan Capron asked if there is a proposed location for this project as the provided materials did not specify the general area of where the future residences would be.
“This location is off of Verde Drive, just north of Northwest Fourth Avenue,” said Brown.
“Is this going to be low-income housing development?” asked Capron.
Brown explained that this development is “a grant that buys down the cost of construction or acquisition so that mortgages can be undertaken by people that would otherwise be unable to afford it. So, yes.”
“You’ve got an upscale subdivision to the east, so I don’t know,” added Councilor Norm Crume in questioning the proposed subdivision’s location.
Brown said that he feels that the houses in the proposed project might still be out of reach for some people. He said that he would classify this development as “working-class housing.”
Councilor Marty Justus said, “And this is forty-five units and if we don’t support it, we are in the wrong!”
The average retail price of these homes would be $180,000 according to Brown, which is the cost before the “buy down.”
“Is Riley [Hill] the builder?” asked Justus.
Brown confirmed that Hill is, in fact, the builder.
The Council asked Hill about the project and where the funds for the “buy down” would come from.
“The system works like this: You apply to the state for a tax credit. In the industry they call it ‘selling the tax credits’ when in fact [what] you’re doing is you’re an equity investor in the project they’re putting money up to build the project. So they’ve put the money up to build the project, so at the end of the 15 year period, then, we’re asking the state to allow us to sell that house to the person living in the house,” explained Hill.
The mayor went on to describe how at the end of the 15 -year period typically the investor has used up the tax credits and wants “out, sell the units, make money.”
Hill said that it is his goal for the residents of these homes to eventually become homeowners.
“A home builds a lot more stability in a community,” stated Hill.
The council ultimately agreed on providing a letter of support for the Trinity Project; the decision was unanimous.