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Affordable housing: Trinity project receives final plat, bids out for construction

The Mullan Road portion of the Trinity project will include 130 units. That includes 30 supportive housing units and 100 units of workforce housing.

A coalition of Missoula housing partners received final plat approval from the county on Thursday for a permanently affordable residential project planned near West Broadway and Mullan Road.

Now years in the making, the Trinity project would provide roughly 130 units of affordable housing, along with wrap-around services. The apartments are planned on property donated by Missoula County in 2019.

Heather McMilin, the housing development director at Homeword, said the project is nearly ready to break ground.

“There was an amazing amount of things that had to be done for this project to come together,” McMilin said. “We have a pretty strict deadline to maintain our pricing and tax credits, and for the project financing to work. I think we’re going to make it. I’m cautiously optimistic. We’re in a good position.”

The affordable housing project was made possible by the county’s land donation and the city’s issuance of tax exempt bonds.

Combined with the Low Income Housing Tax Credits, the public contribution will save the developer nearly $700,000 in costs, allowing it to pass the savings on to future tenants.

McMilin said other legislative changes also have worked in the project’s favor, including the Low Income Housing Tax Credit.

“That helps solve a lot of our budgetary issues,” McMilin said. “It makes the project that we’re utilizing more feasible. It helps the overall budget in this project.”

As the financing falls into place, housing partners are now working to ensure the project lines up with the allotted budget. McMillan said the design team has prepared the bid documents and secured Headwaters Construction to manage the sub-contractors.

The bid documents will help determine where the project stands financially.

“That will all come back to us to evaluate costs and current conditions,” McMilin said. “It’s been one of our bigger concerns because the market has been in flux. Every part of the distribution chain, from materials to labor, is touched (by COVID). We’re looking forward to getting those bids back.”

Four acres of county land just east of the Missoula County Detention Center were donated for the homeless and supportive housing project. (Dave Stalling/Missoula Current file photo)

The Trinity development was initially announced in a celebratory press conference back in 2019. The Mullan Road portion of the project will include 130 units. That includes 30 supportive housing units and 100 units of workforce housing.

The facility will also include an on-site navigation center to provide 24-hour resources, from food security to medication support.

“It’ll have a multitude of resources within that building to help this population be successful,” Keenan Whitt, the project manager with BlueLine Development, said last year. “It’s an opportunity for us to partner with area nonprofits and service providers and create a model that doesn’t duplicate current services in the community.”

The project is owned 50-50 between Homeword and the Missoula Housing Authority and has emerged as a potential model on how to cull resources to help construct affordable housing.

“We’re going to keep our foot on the gas,” McMilin said. “Hopefully in February, we’ll close the financing package.”

She said construction would begin shortly after.