Income-based housing has a new look in Madison these days. Since purchasing Harvest Point in 2018, an investment group has completely rehabilitated the apartment complex.
"We've probably spent close to $1.7 million in upgrades, and there's no increase in rent for the tenants," said Jeff Brooks, who describes himself as the boots on the ground for the investment group, Madison Partners Limited Partnership.
Some of the improvements can be seen from the street. Located off S.E. 9th St., the structures sport new roofing, siding and windows as well as a newly-poured parking lot. The landscaping is being done this spring and will be finished by the end of May.
"Now, a person driving by would not know it's low-income housing," said Jared Smith, regional manager for Costello Companies, LLC, which manages the complex.
However, the improvements don't end there. Inside, the two- and three-bedroom apartments have fully renovated kitchens with new cabinetry and new appliances. In addition, there's new flooring throughout and fresh paint on the walls.
Brooks, COO of Costello Companies, LLC, indicated the project has not been an easy one to complete. Shortly after it was undertaken, tariffs were implemented. This was followed by adverse weather conditions, including flooding last September.
Still, he's enthusiastic about the work that has been done, including a new structure on the site which includes not only an office but also a community room. With a handicapped-accessible kitchen, the space is suitable for small gatherings and will be available to the tenants at no charge.
"I envision a big table here as well as a big TV on the wall and seating over there," Brooks said last week, standing in the center of the room.
While many of the apartments have been rented, several vacancies still exist. With so many people affected by the impact of the COVID-19 threat on businesses, Brooks was quick to note that Harvest Point tenants could be secure in the knowledge that they would not lose their homes.
"The rent is based on their income. If their hours get cut or they get laid off, we can still help them," he indicated.
Smith said the company tries to keep the application process simple even though they must meet established criteria in identifying tenants. This is true because the company made use of the USDA Rural Development's Investment Tax Credit Program in rehabbing the complex.
Costello Companies, LLC must rent a portion of the apartments to those whose income does not exceed 30% of the average household income for Lake County; another portion to those whose income does not exceed 50% of the average household income for Lake County; and a final portion to those whose income does not exceed 60% of the average household income for Lake County.
For this reason, he said, it's difficult to indicate income threshholds for prospective tenants. However, when asked to provide at least one example, Smith did say the maximum income level for a family of three would be $43,600.
The application process begins with a few screening questions.
"If they meet the requirements, we are able to offer them an application," Smith said.
The application asks questions related to income, assets and expenses. Within a couple of weeks, the applicant will learn whether or not they qualify for an available apartment. Rent is 30% of the family's net income, according to Smith.
Since the renovations have been completed, tenants have been more than pleased when they viewed their new homes, he said.
"The response we've gotten is jaws dropping when they walked in," Smith indicated.
Harvest Point has 30 units. Of these, 12 are two-bedroom units and 18 are three-bedroom units. For some, Smith believes, the apartments will be a temporary home.
"We're a good stepping stone for individuals improving their lives and housing situation," he said.