On July 10, local developers, city officials and staffers from the Missoula Housing Authority beamed as they unveiled the 115-unit Silvertip Apartments on the former Missoula Athletic Club site on East Broadway.
"Access to affordable housing is a basic human right," says MHA Director Lori Davidson, moments before a county staffer cut the red ribbon in front of the three-story apartment buildings.
Fifty-two percent of Montana renters spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent, Davidson says. That puts a strain on working-class people.
The Silvertip is unique, Davidson continues, because it serves demographic groups that too often falls through the cracks, such as single-person households and college students.
"There is still a great need for more affordable housing," she says. "But this project is really exciting in that it accommodates people who don't traditionally qualify for housing assistance."
The one- and two-bedroom apartments will range from $450 to $846 per month, based on a three-tiered income scale. The project is a collaboration between the MHA, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, outside investors and the privately owned Rocky Mountain Development Group.
RMDG specializes in renovating old and foreclosed properties, converting them into safe and affordable housing. RMDG Vice President Mike Bouchee says the Silvertip demonstrates the power of broad-based community support. "Here we've got a lot of local politicians that really understand the importance of affordable housing in our community."
Typically, taxpayer credits are used to subsidize low-income housing. The Silvertip is being partially funded instead by a government grant made available through the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Project, part of the 2008 Housing and Economic Recovery Act, which sought to revive foreclosed properties.
The Silvertip garnered $5 million from the one-time $19.6 million pot of money awarded through the NSP to the state. The NSP funding helped open the apartments to a wide demographic of renters who occupy a broad income spectrum.
On July 10, Bouchee was proud to show off the apartments to Missoula community members. They mingled after the ribbon cutting, eating pulled pork sandwiches and Big Dipper ice cream while listening to musician David Boone.
"I feel like a proud father," Bouchee said, surveying the apartments. "We came together with a common goal and made it a reality. But really it's only the tip of the iceberg."