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St. George has had the same problem that Park City, Sun Valley and other resort communities endure: a lack of affordable housing for people who want to work in those areas but can't afford the cost of housing to live there.

That means many service workers have to commute to resort communities from areas with more affordable rents, but that carries its own cost penalties.The result has meant a perennial shortage of qualified employees for the low- to moderate-paying jobs in communities that attract tourists on a seasonal basis.

Now, Prowswood Management Inc. believes it has an answer. It's called Section 42.

Under that provision of the tax code, developers and investors who provide below-market rents to residents of a community who earn no more than 55 percent of the area's median income receive federal tax credits. Those credits help make such housing projects economically feasible.

Prowswood has begun construction of Sun Ridge Apartments in St. George near St. George Boulevard and I-15 and the Dixie College campus. The $2.7 million complex of 52 new apartment units is under construction by Watts Construction of St. George.

Danuel R. Stanger, vice president/special projects manager for Prowswood, said that while the rate for three-bedroom apartments in the St. George area is $575 per month and up, the rents for Sun Ridge will be considerably lower.

Initial rents for Sun Ridge's 40 three-bedroom units will be $441 a month, but four of the three-bedroom units will rent for $242 per month to tenants earning less than 35 percent of the local median income. The 11 two-bedroom units will have a starting rent of $378 per month.

"We know there's a big housing need for people working in hotels, restaurants and other businesses in the St. George and Mesquite areas," said Stanger. "We're already getting calls from prospective tenants who have heard rumors that the project is coming."

The complex is expected to be ready for the first tenants by the end of October. Completion is scheduled for December.

Stanger said demand for affordable housing is high everywhere but particularly so in St. George. He said he knows of at least one other Section 42 housing project planned for the southern Utah city.

Sun Ridge will have 40 three-bedroom, two-bath units; 11 two-bedroom, two-bath units; and one one-bedroom, one-bath manager's unit.

"These aren't typical apartments," said Stanger. "They're more like family-oriented townhouses than an apartment building in which units are stacked on top of each other."

Each Sun Ridge unit will have a garden-level outside entry with no one living above or below anyone else. Each unit will have washer and dryer hookups, air conditioning and a "semiprivate" back yard. The complex will include several children's play areas and two parking stalls, one covered, for each apartment.

For more information call Prowswood's Salt Lake office at 263-5400 or 628-4448 in St. George.