A home when one was needed

Forest Ridge Townhomes was refuge for couple

Cliff Buchan
News Editor

Not much had gone right for Gordy and Phyllis Holtz in the summer of 2008.

The retired Wyoming couple had lost $190,000 in a fraudulent investment plan that landed its mastermind in federal prison for 20 years. Their home with value north of $200,000 was lost in foreclosure.

With their savings drained and little income over a two-year period, the couple was forced to file for bankruptcy.

But all was not lost for the couple. As they drove east on SW 11th Avenue one day that summer they saw the construction of multiple living units next door to Lakes International Language Academy.

It would become their home.

“God is great,” Phyllis Holtz said this week. “He’s given us a good place to live.”

Gordy and Phyllis Holtz at their Forest Ridge Townhome home. The couple and the housing project in Forest Lake will be featured in a public television program that will air at 8 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 19 on the TPT MN channel in the metro and outstate areas. (Photo by Cliff Buchan)

In October of that year, with their home in Wyoming no longer theirs, the couple moved into Forest Ridge Townhomes.

The couple’s situation is typical of the stories that have followed the other occupants of the 38-unit affordable housing complex. Many who have found homes at Forest Ridge have been down on their luck, victims of the economy and tough times.

The Holtzs are living in a three-bedroom unit and have taken on caretaker duties at the complex to help lower their $930 monthly rent which does not include heat and lights.

Phyllis and Gordy Holtz are featured in “Homes for All,” a new documentary produced by Twin Cities Public Television that will debut on Sunday, Feb. 19 in the Twin Cities and markets throughout the state. The documentary will debut at 8 p.m. on the TPT MN channel.

The Documentary

The documentary highlights the great need for affordable housing and profiles three innovative housing project in the Twin Cities and some of the people who reside in the developments in an effort to debunk myths about affordable housing and show real-life examples of the many ways in which such communities are successful.

“It’s time to throw out old notions about affordable housing,” said Jim Roth, executive director of Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers. “The home is the foundation for achieving a productive, fulfilling life where families work, live and play.”

“With investments made by forward-thinking government agencies, businesses, and charitable organizations, families achieve self-reliance and assure a sound education for their children. Not only does affordable housing allow them to live close to their place of employment, it also helps build sustainability into all facets of our Minnesota community and economy,” said Pat Steiger of Minnesota Community Land Trust Coalition.

The 60-minute “Homes for All” documentary takes an in-depth look at the vast need for sustainable, affordable housing choices in Minnesota. According to the Minnesota Housing Partnership,  one-third of Minnesota households spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing; and  one in seven pay more than 50 percent of their income for a place to live.

“We are proud to join MCCD and MNCTLC in sponsoring ‘Homes for All’,” said Chip Halbach, executive director of Minnesota Housing Partnership. “This documentary tells the story of real people in real life situations who – with the security of a safe, affirming place to call home – can move forward and live independent lives.”

An aerial view of the Forest Ridge Townhome project in Forest Lake. (Photo submitted)

Forest Ridge Townhomes is a six building, 38 unit for-rent townhouse project providing affordable housing units. The project is a joint effort between the developer, HSI (Human Services Inc.), and the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency.

There are 14 two-bedroom units, two of which are fully accessible, and 24 three-bedroom units. The homes feature open floor plans, two baths, in home laundry facilities, and double garages. Shared spaces include a community meeting and activity rooms, and an extensively landscaped yard with a tot lot and picnic areas.

Image Changer

Gordy and Phyllis Holtz said they were aware of the negativity that Forest Ridge Townhomes attracted when it was proposed in the mid-2000s.

Tough times for the couple, however, softened their views. No longer did they see folks moving to Forest Ridge as “riff-raff” and “people who won’t work,” Phyllis Holtz said.

She understands that some in the community didn’t like the idea of more affordable housing right next door.

“I didn’t either before I had to have it,” she says. “It was a place to go.”

Gordy Holtz took the project in stride. A carpenter by trade, Holtz said when he looked at the quality of the workmanship as Forest Ridge was being built, he was convinced the project was being done right and would be a good place to call home.

“I can hang with all types of people — the rich and the poor,” he said.

The couple’s income remains limited these days. They have Social Security and work part-time to make ends meet. Along with the caretaker duties at Forest Ridge, they have other part-time jobs.

Phyllis is an on-call lunchroom and playground aide at the charter school next door. Both Gordy and Phyllis help out at Kinder Care Daycare in Forest Lake where Gordy does general maintenance and Phyllis works with kids.

From a couple that was down but not quite out, Gordy and Phyllis firmly believe housing units like Forest Ridge fill an important function in Forest Lake.

“I’m grateful they have a place to go,” Phyllis Holtz says of those who have found refuge at Forest Ridge Townhomes.