Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) Efforts to build workforce housing in Missoula got a big boost this week after the state approved a housing infrastructure bond to help fill out the project's funding pool.

The Missoula Redevelopment Agency pitched the city project to the Montana Board of Investments on Tuesday and was granted a bond worth $2.8 million under a new state program.

“The loan committee approved our request for $2.8 million for the Ravara housing project,” Annie Gorski told the Missoula Current on Thursday. “This is really another milestone – a step forward towards being able to start construction on this project. It's another piece of funding the project.”

The state bond is a key piece of the project's overall funding formula and is included in a $9.8 million bond to cover project costs. The City Council must approve all bond requests and is expected to discuss the measure in the coming weeks.

The funding will help build a workforce housing project off Scott Street and its associated infrastructure, including roads and utilities. It will also cover a funding gap between the true cost of building the workforce housing and selling it to households earning around 120% of the area median income.

“A project of this scale requires a lot of different programs,” Gorski said. “It's a big deal to leverage state funding, tax increment, local bank funding and other sources to make this project happen. This project would not happen but for all of these different programs being leveraged.”

Housing

The city purchased 19 acres off Scott Street in 2020 for $6.6 million. Roughly nine acres of the property, which was formerly home to White Pine Sash, was cleaned to residential standards and will soon be redeveloped into a blend of workforce and market-rate housing.

Of the nine acres set aside for housing, three will be broken off and placed into a community land trust. Current plans for that portion of the project call for 89 for-sale units, including 46 income-restricted units.

The city has partnered with Ravara to complete the project.

The top third of the nine-acre project will include workforce housing.
The top third of the nine-acre project will include workforce housing.
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“It's something the city and the neighborhood has been planning for a long time,” said Gorski. “There's been efforts made to redevelop this property since the White Pine Sash facility closed in the mid 90s.”

To help build the market-rate portion of the project and its necessary infrastructure, MRA approached the Montana Board of Investments in hopes of landing the Housing Infrastructure Revolving Loan Bond.

At the same time, MRA's board of commissioners last month recommended approving a bond not to exceed $9.8 million to round out the project costs.

Broken down, around $5.7 million from the city bond will cover additional infrastructure costs, such as street extensions, utilities, lighting and landscaping, among other things. The remaining $4 million covers the funding gap for workforce housing.

Now that MRA has received the state bond – and if the City Council approves the city bond – Ravara will likely start construction this spring.

“The first piece will likely begin in March. That's for earthwork to prepare the site for construction,” Gorksi said. “Construction activity would likely begin in early summer.”

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