New apartment complex brings 80 units of affordable and supportive housing to Cedar City

CEDAR CITY — Project managers say the new Libertad affordable housing complex in Cedar City is off to a successful start.

The 80-unit mixed-income family development, located at 1044 N. Hovi Hills Drive, includes 56 Livable Home Tax Credit units serving households earning between 25-50% of area median income, plus 24 market-rate units, according to property manager Rachel Webb. 

“We are affordable income housing, and we also have permanent supportive housing for people that have been homeless or are in need,” Webb said, noting that the complex has 20 supportive housing units that are served by Iron County Care and Share.

A ribbon-cutting and open house event was held at Libertad early last month. All three buildings within the complex have been filled with tenants since they first opened a few months ago, Webb said, adding that there are currently 65 names on a waiting list to get into an apartment.

The project includes one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom apartments, with the sizes ranging from 649 to 1,376 square feet. Nine of the units are ADA accessible, six others are set aside for the mentally ill and five are for homeless households.  

Libertad, an 80-unit mixed income affordable housing complex located at 1044 Hovi Hills Drive, Cedar City, Utah, July 5, 2019 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Rental prices vary, ranging from just under $500 per month to more than $1,150, depending on the size of the apartment and whether qualifying tax credits and eligible government subsidies are applied.

Webb lauded Libertad’s partnership with Iron County Care and Share, saying the nonprofit organization’s supportive services have already “made such a difference in so many lives.”

“It’s been wonderful that we can actually work together on getting these people housed,” Webb said. “Permanent supportive housing is very important in the healing process.”

Peggy Green, executive director for Iron County Care and Share, said recent studies have indicated the average American family cannot withstand even a $400 emergency. 

“So any family, even if you have two working parents and children, one parent loses their job and then you have an emergency of $400, many can’t survive,” Green said. “So that’s where we’re seeing a lot of folks now falling into crisis.”

Robbie Martin is Care and Share’s on-site caseworker at Libertad; her job as “family navigator” is to help tenants avail themselves of resources to help them improve their situations.

Libertad’s communal areas include a recreational room with a library and a full kitchen. Down the hall is a computer room and an exercise room. There’s also a classroom where various life skills classes and workshops will be taught to residents, ranging from resume building to financial budgeting.

“She connects them to resources,” Webb said, explaining Martin’s role. “First, put a roof over someone’s head and then wrap them around with services that’s going to lift them and then give them some sustainability.”

Property manager Rachel Webb gives Cedar City News a tour of Libertad, an 80-unit mixed income affordable housing complex located at 1044 Hovi Hills Drive, Cedar City, Utah, July 5, 2019 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Webb said she feels inspired by her tenants.

“It’s a very rewarding job,” she said. “It can be difficult at times, but yeah, it’s wonderful to see them go from homelessness or somebody’s couch or a storage unit to having their own nice place.”

“It’s a little bit different here than the typical property management,” Webb added. “We’re here to try to keep them housed, so if they do have some problems or they falter or they’re having a hard time, we’re trying to keep them housed.

“We want to help. We want to do everything we can. If it’s an addiction problem, if they lost their job, whatever it is, let’s see what can we do. And then that’s when Robbie steps in and tries to find resources to help them succeed. We don’t try to kick them out. We want them to succeed.”

Nick Belnap, regional manager for Cardinal Capital Management’s Four Corners area, said the Libertad project and others like it are designed to address the ongoing need for affordable housing options across the country. 

“As you are probably aware, most Americans are one paycheck away from being in the same situation as many of these individuals,” Belnap told Cedar City News. “And so, it’s time for us to not only acknowledge that we have a problem, but start working on solutions.”

“It’s kind of an epidemic across the country, and it’s spreading into our rural communities more and more,” Belnap added. “That’s why it’s more important for communities such as Cedar City to reach out and get this type of housing and work with different groups in order to address the problems. 

Communal recreation room at Libertad, an 80-unit mixed income affordable housing complex located at 1044 Hovi Hills Drive, Cedar City, Utah, July 5, 2019 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

“It’s become a best-practice model to bring them into housing first so that they can start addressing the issues that led to their homelessness or the constraints that they’ve had because of the economy and really try to get them into housing and provide services to keep them in housing.”

Heather Bradley-Geary, director of supportive housing for the Vecino Group, says Libertad is Vecino’s second development in Utah, following a similar apartment complex called Bodhi constructed a few years ago in downtown Salt Lake City. Vecino has also developed similar projects in multiple other states, including Missouri and Colorado.

Plans are already in the works for another one in Cedar City: a 60-unit complex called Cairn Point for seniors aged 55 and older.

“We got the funding of low income housing tax credits in December,” Bradley-Geary said. “Hopefully, we will start construction this year … that’s the goal.”

Bradley-Geary said she hopes the projects will help dispel some of the negative perceptions that some people have about affordable housing.


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