The first dirt has been moved — and construction is set to start in earnest — on a new home for senior citizens.
Representatives of local government, construction and engineering firms joined staff members of the District IV Human Resources Development Council in a groundbreaking ceremony for Buffalo Court senior citizen living facility just south of the HRDC offices at the south end of 5th Avenue.
“It’s gotta be great, ” Hill County Commissioner Jeff LaVoi said after the ceremony. “Looking at the design, it will be a very comfortable place and affordable for those who need this. It will be a good addition. ”
Katherine Williams, chair of the HRDC board, said after the ceremony that the board was concerned when looking at the project that entering into the field of low-income senior living facilities could spread resources too thin.
“But we saw it was important enough to move forward, ” she added.
Karen Thomas, executive director of HRDC, said this morning that construction will begin immediately.
“Construction should be finished, and we’re hoping it will be ready, by July of 2012, ” she said.
The complex will offer apartments designed to make it easy for older people to live there, with a central community center.
People age 55 and older will have to qualify based on income to be eligible to rent the apartments. Thomas said HRDC will hire a management company to determine eligibility and operate the facility.
The complex will include 20 units. Of those, 16 will be one-bedroom apartments at 784 square feet each, and four will be two-bedroom units at 975 square feet each.
All apartments will meet U. S. Housing and Urban Development accessibility requirements; have air conditioning, garbage disposals, natural gas heat, dishwashers and in-unit hook-ups for washers and dryers.
Half of the units will have bathtubs, the other half will have roll-in showers. All bath and shower units will be prebuilt and fitted with grab bars and accessibility features.
The funding is using a tax credit program for which investors — in this case, Billings-based Mountain Plains Equity Group — purchase equity and receive the credits once the complex is 100-percent filled with eligible low-income senior citizens.
Thomas said after the ceremony that the credits start to phase out in 10 years, and after 15 years HRDC will own the equity in the complex.
The tax credits, through a program administered by the Montana Department of Commerce’s Board of Housing, are providing more than $4.5 million to the project. HRDC also received a $500,000 federal grant administered by the state Department of Commerce’s Housing Division.
Another $380,000 is expected to be raised through a mortgage and a deferred developer fee loan, which is common in low- income housing tax-credit projects, said Gene Leuwer of GL Development, which helped put the equity part of the project together.
Jeff Downhour and Brett James from Mosaic Architects in Helena are the architects, and Diamond Construction of Helena was the low bidder on the project and will be the general contractor.
A representative for U. S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., who could not attend in person, read a letter from Tester during the ceremony.
“This project is a remarkable example of what happens when Montanans work together and get a little help from the government, ” Tester said in the letter.
He congratulated the local officials and the HRDC staff members who “came together and got some development possible from the private sector. ”
During the groundbreaking, Havre Mayor Tim Solomon congratulated HRDC and all others who worked on the project.
“It took years to get this to go, ” he said. “It’s a big need for Havre. ”