MAHP balancing act brings $14 million in housing funds to C.R.

by Dale Kueter, Gazette staff writer

The Gazette, Apr. 9, 1995

Think of the Metro Area Housing Program (MAHP) as a gymnastics act. It uses grants and donations to leverage low-interest loans. It balances government programs with private Financing. It tosses long-term leases and tax abatement into programs to produce affordable housing for the Cedar Rapids area.

Its formula: whatever works. President Mary Schoen-Clark describes some of the complex arrangements as “deals from hell.”

Schoen-Clark and MAHP have brought in $14 million in grants, contributions and loans in three years. In the process, MAHP is reusing old buildings and putting them back on tax rolls. MAHP pays $32,000 annually in property taxes.

“We could work at this 10 years and not put a dent in the need,” Schoen-Clark says.

The organization provides housing for 192 people, but Schoen-Clark cites census data showing that 5,000 more households could use affordable housing. These families now pay over half of their disposable income for housing.

Nearly all MAHP target families have annual incomes of around $17,000, or less than half the area’s median income of $44,000.

MAHP began with grants from the Hall Foundation and the Greater Cedar Rapids Foundation.

It parlayed those funds into an ever-expanding financing circle. But Schoen-Clark says the MAHP staff sometimes is “flying by the seat of our pants. Cash flow is always a problem.

“At the same time I want to make it clear we run this like a business. We pay our bills.” The goal is for MAHP eventually to become self-sufficient, to pay administrative expenses from property management proceeds.

MAHP’s annual budget is $3.4 million, three-fourths of which is used for housing rehabilitation and new construction. MAHP employs 32 people.

The organization runs renter- and home-buyer education programs. It currently employs 11 youths in a program that salvages materials from old buildings. Materials are either sold or used in fixing up dilapidated houses. Donated building materials are used in the same fashion.