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Supportive Housing plan advancing

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Supportive Housing plan advancing
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

A plan to fulfill a "great need" for supportive housing in the Bemidji area is progressing.

The project will result in a 20 units of housing for homeless and transitioning families.

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The realization of the project, which will likely break ground in spring, is due to a multifaceted collaboration of partners.

The Headwaters Housing Development Corporation is developing the project and is working to secure the necessary funding.

Originally, the project had been proposed to be in the north Lake Irving area south of T'Juans, but that location did not work out.

The project nearly died, said Tim Flathers, community development director with the Headwaters Regional Development Corporation. The HHDC is a subsidiary corporation of the HRDC.

But, the Beltrami County Housing and Redevelopment Authority did not want to see the project cease.

The HRA owns 24 acres land north of 15th Street Northwest. The Bi-County CAP Inc offices cover about six acres of that land.

The HRA offered to donate more than five acres for the supportive housing plan, Flathers said.

"The HRA just stepped up and said, 'This is a project we believe in,' and donated the land," Fathers said. "The project would have been dead without it."

Bi-CAP will provide the supportive services necessary for the project.

Housing will be built utilizing five four-plexes of town home-like structures that will be available for rent at 30 percent of the occupants' income to provide housing to homeless families and transitioning families.

Current plans call for buildings with 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom units on the ends with two 3-bedroom units in the middle. Sixteen of the units will be permanent supportive housing units while four units will be for transitional housing.

The Leech Lake and Red Lake reservations will have "master leases" for five units each.

"It's a win-win," Flathers said. "They will be able to provide housing for some of their residents and we get stabilization with having units leased. It's a nice fit."

Also donating toward the project is the city of Bemidji.

Because the housing development, which has not yet been named, will require a permanent street for access from 15th Street, the city of Bemidji agreed to donate up to $165,000 for a temporary street that will extend from the housing project t0 23rd Street.

"If the city did not agree to finance (the temporary road), this project would not have gone forward," Flathers said.

The budget for the supportive housing project needs to be kept tight, Flathers said.

In total, the budget will approach $5 million. Four million dollars has been secured through Minnesota Housing and the Greater Minnesota Housing Fund. Two other applications for funding are pending.

"We're doing everything we can to maintain quality construction and durability and still have something that has some curb appeal," Flathers said.

The Minnesota Housing Partnership has awarded a $50,000 interest-free loan to cover architecture and engineering costs.

Flathers said that loan will enable the design and pre-construction work to continue until financing is finalized. The loan will be paid back to the MHP.

The HHDC had not planned on pursuing a housing project that included infrastructure work, he said, so the partnerships with other entities have been crucial.

"One of the really cool things about this has been all the support we've received from all of the different players," he said. "That's been really gratifying."

Had the HHDC been required to finish that roadway from 15th to 23rd streets, he said, the budget would have been blown. The construction of that street is required by city ordinance.

But the cost to the city to build that temporary road could decrease.

There are plans now to build north of the supportive housing project a 32-unit multi-family housing development.

Pine Haven Townhomes would provide 2- and 3-bedroom housing units with attached garages to those who meet income guidelines. The project will be "work force housing" for those who make 50 percent or less of the county's median income.

"There is a synergy there between these two projects," Flathers said.

If Pine Homes Townhomes is constructed - developers are still working to obtain and finalize their financing - that development would be responsible for constructing a portion of the road needed from 15th to 23rd streets.

The Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the Planned Unit Development for the supportive project during its meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday at Bemidji City Hall.

Housing needs

The timeline for construction has not been set, but Flathers said the goal is to break ground this spring. Construction will take about one year.

"This really is a community need," Flathers said.

Anne McGill, assistant director of operations for Bi-CAP, said Bi-CAP is pleased to be able to offer the support for services.

The permanent housing, she explained, will be open for families who are interested in establishing a long-term residence.

Transitional residents, however, will be able to remain in place anywhere from three to 24 months, or until they meet their housing plan goals, she said.

It is theoretically possible, she said, that a family could move from a transitional unit to a permanent unit, McGill said.

"We are excited," McGill said of the project, adding that it has been in the planning stage for about three years. "It will be nice to get it going."

bwesley@bemidjipioneer.com

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