NWGF receives $6.1 million in low income housing tax credits for Baatz Building renovation

Updated 10:30 a.m. Oct. 20

NeighborWorks Great Falls has been awarded $6.1 million in low income housing tax credits from the Montana Board of Housing for their plan to purchase and renovate the Baatz Building at 400 2nd Ave. S. into permanent supportive housing.

The building has been vacant for several years and is in need of significant renovation as it was not well maintained as an apartment building prior to being boarded up.

NeighborWorks has a pending buy-sell agreement for the building and if successful in getting the tax credits, plans to add 25 permanent supportive housing units on the top two floors with supportive services on the main floor in an estimated $8 million project.

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Residents of the apartments will pay rent, have a lease and have one on one support from a case manager to help build independent living and tenancy skills as well as be connected to community based physical and mental healthcare services. The first floor of the building will house both case management professionals as well as the community-based service providers, according to NWGF.

The Montana Department of Commerce announced the tax credit awards on Oct. 19. Projects in Billings, Dillon and Kalispell also received funding.

Federal housing tax credits allow developers to borrow less money for construction and pass those savings along to families and individuals through lower rent. This year, developers submitted housing tax credit applications for eight distinct projects requesting more than $46.5 million to build or rehabilitate homes, including the Carter Commons project, across from Carter Park.

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“Access to affordable homes is vital for our communities to grow and prosper. These homes will provide a safe place to live and needed stability for many Montanans in communities across the state,” Commerce Director Scott Osterman said in a release. “Working alongside our statewide housing partners, we will continue to support the development and preservation of safe and affordable homes for Montana families and individuals.”

Over the last three years, the board received more than $250 million in housing tax credit requests and annually invited eight projects to submit full applications but can only award four or five, according to the release.

For the Great Falls project, NWGF is partnering with Homeword out of Missoula for the planned permanent supportive housing, which is a concept that combines affordable housing assistance with voluntary support services to address the needs of chronically homeless people. The services are designed to build independent living and tenancy skills and connect people with community-based healthcare, treatment and employment services, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

According to the alliance, permanent supportive housing has helped reduce chronic homelessness by 8 percent since 2007 and this type of housing can also increase housing stability and improve health.

“Permanent supportive housing has been shown to lower public costs associated with the use of crisis services, such as shelters, hospitals, jails and prisons,” according to the alliance.

NWGF officials discussed the project with Neighborhood Council 7 during their July 12 meeting and members were supportive of the project.

NWGF plans to start construction in fall of 2022 with a hopeful completion of spring/summer 2023.