Casper’s shortage of affordable housing has eased somewhat in recent months with the completion of the nearly $20 million Raven Crest Apartments in south central Casper.

Thursday, the Casper Housing Authority, Wyoming Community Development Authority, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and others celebrated the opening of the 100-unit apartment complex.

Mayor Charlie Powell said many families in Casper live in substandard housing, often paying high rents causing a tough environment to raise children and enjoy life.

Raven Crest will help some of them, Powell said.

"When people can have a very nice place to live that doesn’t eat up their entire paycheck, life gets a little better for them, and that’s a good thing," he said. "I’m very pleased the Casper Housing Authority has been able to put this complex together; there are a number of families that are going to benefit from this over a long period of time; and it just speaks well of our community.”

"Affordable housing" is a term that means about 30% of a family's income should be spent on housing, said Kim Summerall-Wright of the Casper Housing Authority.

The apartments are one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom sizes -- depending on a family's size, Summerall-Wright said. Raven Crest has a community center, play areas, summer meals programs for children and opportunities for family activities, she added.

Residents are single, single-parent families, people with disabilities, and families with children, they range across all ages including the elderly, she said.

The occupancy is nearly 100 percent, and there is a waiting list.

Kim Sieber, project manager of Blueline Development, Inc., oversaw the financial component of Raven Crest including the applications for funding, choosing the architect and contractor, and overseeing the construction management.

The funding came through the tax credit program of the Internal Revenue Service. Each state, based on population, is allocated a certain number of tax credits and the Wyoming Community Development Authority decides who receives the tax credits, Sieber said.

Once the tax credits are allocated, there is an equity investor -- American Express -- that front-loads the equity into the construction, she said.

The idea for Raven Crest started in 2015, Sieber said. The allocation was given in 2016, construction began in the fall of 2017 and finished with the last building in January.

This project is unusual in that 50 of the units replace public housing units in a program through HUD called Rental Assistance Demonstration.

This is the only Rental Assistance Demonstration project in the state and one of the largest low-income housing tax credit projects in the state, Summerall-Wright said.

Sieber and Summerall-Wright said those 50 units will replace about 75 public housing residences throughout the city. Many of those places require extensive maintenance or repairs and have become too costly.

"So HUD came up with the program to infuse the units with the tax credit equity," Sieber said.

Summerall-Wright said people living in the subsidized housing need that help to get themselves on their feet. After that, they can apply to live in the 50 units dedicated as workforce housing. People renting the workforce housing pay rent based on their incomes, she said.

Some of those in the workforce housing become stable and successful enough to be able to find their own places to live, Summerall-Wright said.

"In the last four years at the Housing Authority, we've had 26 families purchase their own homes," she said. "That is our goal for everyone, of course, that wants to do that."

People interested in living at Raven Crest pr other public housing can apply through the Casper Housing Authority's website, she said.