Written by Devon Boen
The Montana Board of Housing made a final decision regarding allocation of federal funds to multiple communities for tax credit housing projects across the state. The board had proposals from 14 developers each representing a different community.
Jonathan Reed and Associates, out of Colorado Springs, Colo., approached the Wolf Point City Council last fall and proposed a 24-unit tax credit housing project. The development firm chose the area because they recognized the dire need for housing.
JRA and Associates agreed to conditionally purchase 111 acres north of Trinity Hospital. The project would use 2.88 acres of that land and it would only be purchased and annexed into the city limits if the project was approved.
Reed sold the council and the public on the project by explaining that it was not going to cater to the poor, but rather low to middle income residents. He also said it would have multiple amenities including a tot lot, a basketball court, a gazebo, and a business center in the leasing office. Reed told The Herald-News that no new housing projects had been erected in the area since the early 1980s.
Community members and city and county officials all voiced their concern over the lack of housing and many of them travelled to the March proposal hearing in Helena to show support. Wolf Point had the most communal support at the hearing, according to Reed.
The Poplar project was developed by the Make It Right Foundation, an organization that helps communities build environmentally sustainable housing projects. The specific project would be an elders’ village.
On the Make It Right Foundation website, it said community members would be involved in its development and it would use Native American architectural design principals.
At a decision hearing on April 22, each community received a ranking. Each was graded on criteria including extended low income use and how it would serve low income tenants, the project location, housing needs consideration, project characteristics, development team characteristics, demonstration of Montana presence, whether there was participation by a local entity, how the project catered to tenants with special housing needs, market need, and intermediary costs, among others.
The lowest possible score was 80 points and the highest possible score was 109.
Neither Wolf Point nor Poplar had a runaway lead, but were still chosen to receive the tax credit funds. Wolf Point’s project scored 106 along with Billings, Helena, Glendive, Sidney and Great Falls. Poplar scored 103. Havre scored 108 and was selected since it had a clear lead. The board also approved two smaller projects in Cut Bank and Kalispell.
Reed said he thought Wolf Point was selected out of the communities that scored 106 because the project was environmentally sustainable and the cheapest project that received the same score.
Reed said the next step for the Wolf Point Village Project would be annexing the necessary land and approving project designs.