Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) With Homeword set to begin a $9 million rehabilitation project on the Creekside Apartments, other affordable housing properties in Missoula are turning their focus to tax credits as a tool to fund similar work.

This week, the City Council agreed to set a public hearing to support Union Place Apartments LLC and its plan to apply for a 4% tax credit from the state to rehabilitate the property's 63 affordable housing units.

State law requires that a public hearing proceed the request for tax credits.

“They're a really important funding source,” said Emily Harris Shears, the city's housing policy specialist. “They're pretty competitive given our state's population, which limits the share of tax credits we're able to access.”

But those behind the project like their changes to access the tax credits. Combined with a tax-exempt bond, it will help fund the work, which includes new siding, exterior paint, windows, central heating and air, sidewalks and other amenities.

A full conversion to LED lighting also is included.

“The 4% tax credits aren't nearly as competitive as the 9%,” said Jack Jensen, who's managing the project. “The availability of tax-exempt bonds in the state are pretty optimistic, in our opinion. They haven't been oversubscribed. We're anticipating funding pretty shortly after we apply.”

The Union Place Apartments, located off Great Northern Avenue, was built in two phases in 2005 and 2007. The property is currently income and rent restrict and will remain so at least through 2035.

Like the Creekside Apartments, Union Place plays a significant role in providing affordable options for family housing, and keeping the property in good condition fits the tenets of the city's housing policy, which in part calls for the retention of existing housing.

The property includes a split of 2- and 3-bedroom units.

“It's an affordable property, but it's preserved for families and we'll retain that,” said Jensen. “If we're fully funded, we want to start construction (in late December).”

He said it will take about 10 months to complete the work.