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Leaders celebrate groundbreaking for Helena affordable housing project

Posted at 6:20 PM, Sep 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-20 20:38:30-04

HELENA — On Friday afternoon, dozens of people gathered on Helena’s west side, to celebrate a major new affordable housing project.

State, city and community leaders were on hand for the official groundbreaking for Rocky Mountain Development Council’s Red Alder Residences.

“It’s a great feeling,” said Liz Mogstad, Rocky Mountain Development Council’s affordable housing director. “It’s been about a two-year process thus far, and a lot of hard work goes into making all the numbers work and getting everything to work, so we’re really excited to be at this point of breaking ground.”

The development will include 85 housing units on a 9.6-acre parcel, at the corner of Henderson and Brady Streets. It is currently in the final permitting process with the city of Helena.

Leaders said the $19 million project was only possible because of many partners working together. GL Development partnered with Rocky on Red Alder Residences. They secured more than $10 million in tax credits and $2.7 million in grants – mostly federal funding, but distributed by the Montana Department of Commerce. Mogstad said Helena city leaders offered support for the project as they sought funding.

“The Red Alder project is yet another step toward a brighter, healthier and happier future for the city of Helena, and a perfect example of what can be achieved when community partners work together for a common goal,” said Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins.

Red Alder Residences will include a variety of housing options, with 42 one-bedroom apartments, 31 two-bedroom and 12 three-bedroom. The buildings will be a mixture of duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes, though each unit is designed to be relatively independent. Mogstad said the goal is to create a development that looks and feels like a neighborhood of single-family homes.

Rents at Red Alder will be set so that the units are available to people with a range of income levels. They will accept Section 8 housing vouchers from low-income residents, but they will also serve people who make too much to qualify for government assistance, but still have trouble paying market rent.

“It’s going to provide solutions and homes for a wide variety of our population,” said Mogstad. “Like I like to say, it’s our friends, our family, people we meet on the street – and so that is what I think makes this unique and exciting.”

Construction on Red Alder Residences is expected to finish by December 2020.

“I can’t wait to drive by this very spot in a year or so, and know that families are sitting around the dinner table, laughing and sharing, sharing dreams and making those dreams come true,” said Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney.

Mogstad said they plan to complete the work in phases, so they could start leasing some finished homes before the entire project is done.

Leaders say there is a significant need for affordable housing in the Helena community. One 2018 study found the area has a very low vacancy rate, and that it needs about 250 more affordable rental homes. Red Alder will address about one-third of that need.

“We’ll still need more, when this is all completed,” said Mogstad. “This is a big step, though, in helping our community.”