Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) The Montana Board of Housing on Monday approved Homeword's application for Low Income Housing Tax Credits to rehabilitate an aging affordable housing complex in Missoula.

The credits will help support the roughly $9 million rehabilitation of the Creekside Apartments, which houses 298 people across a spectrum of ages off East Broadway.

“Homeword was successful in getting Low Income Housing Tax Credits to rehab all 161 units,” City Council president Gwen Jones announced on Monday. “This is huge to keep this as affordable housing. It's a win in the housing column.”

The apartments are reserved for those earning 60% of the area median income, making them affordable when compared to market rate housing. That rent restriction was set to expire in the coming years and the property was poised to hit the market, raising concerns that Creekside could vanish from Missoula's affordable housing portfolio.

As a result, Homeword stepped in to purchase the property and received a tax-exempt conduit bond from the city to help. First Security Bank agreed to purchase the $10.3 million bond, effectively financing Homeword's purchase of the property.

Now, aided by the Low Income Housing Tax Credits awarded this week, Homeword plans to rehabilitate the property and its 161 units.

"We bought it knowing that it had significant amount of deferred maintenance. This is a big deal for us," said Andrea Davis, executive director of Homeword. "There's no way we can do the rehab scope needed at Creekside without the tax credits. We need a substantial amount of capital to do what we're talking about.

The facility, which sits in Hellgate Canyon just east of downtown Missoula, was constructed in 1996. But most of the overall building systems are now nearing the end of their useful life.

Davis said rehabilitation will give the property a second wind and include all new siding, roofing, windows, mechanics, plumbing and other upgrades. The work will also make the apartments more energy efficient.

Interior improvements will include approved appliances, flooring, cabinets and other items. Davis placed the cost at around $9 million and said the work will likely being next fall.

“All of the major systems of this property were built in 1996. It's 30 years later and it's starting to fail,” she said. “We'll be designing the scope and look to start doing the rehab work next year. We've already had initial conversations just so general contractors know this is in the cue.”

In a letter of support for the tax credits, members of the City Council described housing as a “critical and urgent need” in Missoula. Keeping the projects in the affordable housing class helps meet citywide housing goals.

“While the original builder did not use durable materials, we have seen Homeword's stewardship of resources and thoughtful design work throughout their portfolio of housing projects, and we have every confidence that this building will be more sustainable once these improvements are made,” Jones wrote in a letter of support.

The Missoula Food Bank, the Missoula Housing Authority, All Nations Health Center, the Human Resource Council and the Missoula Economic Partnership also voiced support for the funding award.

“Missoula must preserve and sustain our current inventory of workforce housing units. If we do not, housing prices will continue to rise and the set of people can afford to live in Missoula will change. This will directly impact our employers and workforce as some types of work, firms and industries will become unvialbe at the wages required to afford housing.”