The apartment buildings across from the Oregon Area Senior Center have remained largely the same since their construction in the early 1970s.

But that could change, as the Oregon Village Board approved $168,000 Monday night for Genesis Housing to renovate three of its buildings that are home to mostly rent-subsidized apartments.

The $1 million project comprises an $840,000 grant and a 25 percent match from the village, which was required by the other lender. The money comes from the village’s affordable housing fund and it’s the first time that fund has been used.

The account was established after the village closed the business park tax-increment financing district in 2017, village administrator Mike Gracz explained at the meeting, and has a balance of about $485,000.

The fund was established, Gracz explained, when the Village Board took advantage of a provision in state law allowing it to hold its TIF district open for an extra year and put the surplus into an affordable housing fund.

Genesis Housing was incorporated as a nonprofit in 1971 with a goal to build affordable housing for senior citizens, Genesis board of directors president Scott Meier told the board. Only a few updates have been made since.

“The (28 year old) roofs need to be replaced, there’s an original boiler from 1978 that we’d love to see gone, those are some examples of some big-ticket items,” Meier said Monday night. “We would plan to filter it down into smaller items that our residents would notice easier than the roof over their head or the boiler.”

The funding from the village is only part of the process for funding the renovations. Meier said Genesis is applying for an $840,000 grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago, though the bank requires any project it funds to have 25 percent of costs from another source at the time of the application.

Genesis originally applied for that grant in 2015, which was “an arduous process,” but its application didn’t score high enough to qualify. Meier said the team has since worked with an expert and analyzed the increased need for affordable housing, and with the financial support of the village, it’s more likely to be successful this time around.

Meier said the $840,000 grant is “a pretty generous amount” and that the money from the village was enough to “fill that remaining gap to make this all possible.”

Housing for seniors

Genesis Housing has its main office in Oregon and 56 apartment units across four locations, including one in Brooklyn. While the grant would support projects in all locations, Meier said the money awarded by the village would only be used for the Oregon properties: 230 S. Oak St., 240 Waterman St. and 210 Park St.

Run by a team of volunteers, Genesis is supported by USDA Rural Development, which has a mission to improve the economy and quality of life in rural America.

Genesis apartments include single and two bedroom units and are available for people either over the age of 62 or considered “disadvantaged” under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Rent maxes out at $630, including all utilities. That low rent, while helpful for those struggling financially, has limited the opportunity for renovations and updates, Meier said.

In addition to making the units more visually appealing with appliance updates, new parking lots and other improvements, Meier said, Genesis wants to reduce rent costs by making environmentally sustainable updates.

“We’ve been working hard to identify ways to further update and secure those existing buildings,” he said. “They’re in decent shape, but a lot of the material is 42 years old and needs updates.”

Getting the grant

Meier said the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago awards more than $26 million in grants annually.

The deadline to apply is in early June, and awards are announced in mid December. The money would be available in early 2020.

The Oregon Community Bank, which is a member of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago network, is sponsoring Genesis’ application.

After the first request was declined in 2015, Meier said Genesis was encouraged to apply again.

“It’s a very competitive, data-driven grant,” Meier explained after the meeting. “It creates a score, and typically the difference between winning and losing a grant is one-tenth of a point. It’s very important to be careful and score every single point.”

He said Genesis is more familiar with the process this year, especially after hearing some feedback about the first process.

“It just meant that others demonstrated a better need than we did,” he said. “We had an excellent application last time… which is why we were highly encouraged to apply again this year,” he said.

Contact Amber Levenhagen at amber.levenhagen@wcinet.com.