Belgarde Property Services: Providing wage earner housing

Harmony Heights Complex

Belgarde Property Services is a veteran in the housing market with 45 years of property management experience. Their Rapid City portfolio includes two workforce housing apartment projects developed with revenue bonds secured through SDHDA. LaCrosse Estates Apartment Homes were built in 1986. Harmony Heights Premier Apartment Homes were completed in 2004.

Harry Yaffe, Chief Financial Officer for Belgarde, said workforce housing is a term that has been used in recent years to describe housing that falls somewhere in between high-end properties and low-income housing. "It's kind of a new term; middle market might be the best way to describe it," said Yaffe.

The concept of Workforce Housing was born in the early 1970s in the Colorado ski resort towns of Aspen and Telluride. Home prices there were soaring, and people who worked at the ski areas, restaurants and shops were essentially priced out of the market. The idea has since expanded to other parts of the country, where wages were out of sync with housing costs. In places such as Rapid City, the disparity between rents and wages is less pronounced, but for some wage-earners it still exists. The partnership forged between SDHDA and Belgarde addressed the disparity.

To secure the revenue bonds and receive other financial incentives, Belgarde agreed to set aside 20 percent of the units for income-qualified residents. "The rent is discounted for those residents. Their rent is not subsidized by any government agency," stated Yaffe.

Combining market-rate rents with an affordability component has worked well for Belgarde, the residents of La Crosse Estates and Harmony Heights and for the Rapid City community. "I think it's a good deal for everybody. We're very pleased with it," Yaffe said.