Parkside Village's $1.1 million renovation nearly complete

Eight years of effort have finally brought results for the residents of Parkside Village: Their apartment complex will not be sold on the open market, and their rents will remain affordable.

And, as the result of a complex deal brokered by agencies from the local to the federal, the buildings also were remodeled, to the tune of $1.1 million.

"The important thing for Missoula is that the housing remains rent-restricted," said Ed Mayer, chief executive of the Missoula Housing Authority, an organizer of the deal and now 10-percent owner of the complex. "The housing authority is a local partner, so it's operated properly. And the rents stay down to meet a need."

Parkside Village, built in 1974, is part of a wave of privately owned housing complexes of its era that were built with government-assured 1 percent mortgages that the owners got in exchange for keeping the complexes' rents affordable.

But the contracts, made with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, are expiring, allowing owners to sell the buildings to private buyers who would not be required to keep rents down.

Because of the age of the properties, many of them need renovation, and owners face either converting to market-rate rents to raise the money for the repairs or allowing the buildings to deteriorate further.

Residents of Parkside Village began worrying in 1992, when their complex went up for sale for about $2 million.

The Missoula Housing Authority tried two other ways to buy Parkside before connecting with a private investor based in La Jolla, Calif.

"The owner was willing to see the property go to a nonprofit," Mayer said, "and held onto it."

Hampstead Partners, private affordable-housing consultants, became involved in buying seven Montana properties facing similar trouble. The other complexes are in Bozeman, Deer Lodge and the Flathead Valley area.

The resulting arrangement is a partnership among Hampstead, the Montana Board of Housing, the federally chartered mortgage association Fannie Mae, the Missoula Housing Authority and the four Human Resource Development councils of Missoula, Northwest Montana, Bozeman and Butte. The coalition operates as the Montana Preservation Project, based in Kalispell.

The tax credits involved in the Parkside Village project expire in 16 years, at which time the Missoula Housing Authority can step in and buy it.

The Parkside Village project closed in November, and the renovation is nearly complete, Mayer said. It cost about $11,000 per unit and included kitchen cabinets, light fixtures, roofing and landscaping. The construction has gone on through the winter.

"Some people think it's the greatest thing since sliced bread," Mayer said, "and there are others who'll say it's been nuts."

Residents who qualified received Section 8 vouchers that they could use anywhere; of the 104 households, 81 qualified. Students had to move because tax-credit rules don't allow students. The net result is about 40 vacant apartments. Most of the elderly residents, who would have been most affected by a rent increase, were able to stay.

Rents went up a little, but they're still affordable and far below market rents:

€ Studio apartments, which were $290, are now $322.

€ One-bedroom units, once $313, are now $378.

€ Two-bedroom units, once $376, are now $465.

"This is a big problem nationwide," Mayer said. "Here we've figured out a way to save these properties that are expiring. When they go, it's an irreparable loss to the city's affordable housing supply."

If you're interested

The newly refurbished Parkside Village apartment complex, 3602 Stephens Ave., will host an open house on Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. Representatives from the Montana Preservation Project and the Missoula Housing Authority will be on hand to answer questions.

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