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red alder rendering

Mosaic Architecture's rendering of the planned Red Alder apartment complex.

Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney and Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins joined the Rocky Mountain Development Council Friday to celebrate the start of construction on an 85-unit affordable housing complex in Helena. 

According to RMDC Executive Director Lori Ladas, the idea for Red Alder Residences was born two years ago over a cup of coffee. Notably, it is the first housing project RMDC is tackling since the River Rock Residences in 2013. 

"Red Alder is going to help a number of people in our community at a variety of income levels," said Liz Mogstad, affordable housing program director for RMDC. "We are going to accept all kinds of subsides for housing here." 

The 85-unit complex will feature 40 one-bedroom, 31 two-bedroom and 14 three-bedroom apartments. The cost of each individual unit will be based on the family or individual's household income.

The construction site is located at the corner of Henderson Street and Brady Street on the west side of Helena. 

Cooney said he believes projects like Red Alder don't happen with just one or two people working on them. He believes they happen through groups of dedicated individuals. 

"Affordable housing is at the core of economic challenges and opportunities families face in our community," Cooney said. "We are so honored to play a role in making these affordable homes possible."

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Cooney said the Helena area needs approximately 250 more affordable homes as of late 2019. Red Alder is set to fulfill one-third of that need, which Cooney said is a cause for celebration. Cooney said he looks forward to driving past the construction location in a year and knowing that families are in these homes sitting around the dinner table. 

Collins said rising home prices in Helena are making it increasingly difficult for community members to buy or rent. 

"Today, I see a little light at the end of the tunnel," Collins said. "This is an example of what community groups can accomplish when working for a common goal." 

Construction on the project is set to begin before the end of September and will finish by fall 2020.

RMDC has worked through a number of funding hurdles, including acquiring nearly $8 million in competitive tax credits awarded through the Montana Board of Housing. The Red Alder project was also awarded a grant from HOME Investment Partnerships for $750,000 and a Housing Trust Fund grant for just under $2 million. Both grants were funded through the Montana Department of Commerce. According to Mogstad, the remainder of the project funding came through a tax exempt bond, traditional loan financing and some non-competitive tax credits. 

RMDC also had to deal with contaminants in the lot's soil, which was mitigated with Brownsfields Program funding via the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 

The development was designed by Mosaic Architecture of Helena and the construction partner on the project is Golden Eagle Construction. A local branch of Valley Bank was the project's financial partner. The City of Helena and Lewis and Clark County also played roles in making this project happen. 

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