BEMIDJI -- The Headwaters Regional Development Commission office has been bustling with activity the past 12 months.
According to its annual report, compiling activity from July 2018 through June 2019, the HRDC distributed millions of dollars for economic development and made inroads to improve regional housing needs.
In Beltrami County alone, the HRDC distributed $2.3 million through its revolving loan fund. The fund also provided $642,000 for Hubbard County, $635,000 for Clearwater County, $456,000 for Lake of the Woods County and $400,000 for Mahnomen County.
Mary Thompson, HRDC operations director, said in most cases the revolving loan fund is used for gap financing. "A business willl go to a bank and a bank will only loan a certain amount," Thompson said. "So, if they need more resources or equity, they can seek resources from our fund."
There are 31 active loans through the fund, financed by the federal Economic Development Administration and in fiscal year 2018, 497 jobs in the HRDC's five-county area were created.
"The county distribution shows how the current borrowers are distributed among the counties we serve," Thompson said. "The impact in each county is proportional to the sizes of the counties, so we're doing a pretty good job making those resources available."
The commission's report also set a trio of priorities specific to Beltrami County related to housing. In the future, the HRDC is committing to increase the supply of affordable rental housing and reduce the number of over-burdened renters.
Additionally, the HRDC is also looking to improve the quality of existing rental housing and increase the supply of permanent supportive housing for homeless youth and families.
The HRDC is looking to expand single family housing developments done in smaller communities, Thompson said. The HRDC has applied for funding through the Minnesota Housing Impact Fund to assist in what Thompson called the value gap.
"If we would build a house and the cost of construction exceeds what the appraised value is in a community, then it's tough to do development since you will lose money," Thompson said. "The fund is an opportunity for us to use outside resources in order to defray that loss."
Another way the HRDC is planning to meet its priorities is to expand the amount of supportive housing with new developments on Conifer Avenue Northwest in Bemidji. In 2012, the 20-unit Conifer Estates opened and in the following years, the supportive housing complex has had a waiting list with sometimes up to 100 people.
The next phase for Conifer Avenue, Thompson said, is Conifer Villas. The new 32-unit, 10,678 square-foot supportive housing complex is estimated to cost $8.7 million.
"Conifer Villas will be built to help those who live with behavioral health needs," Thompson said. "The project is funded and right now we're in the due diligence process. As soon as we finish that we can break ground, and we're hoping to do that at the end of September, we're working hard to get a fall construction start."
Thompson said the HRDC also submitted an application to Minnesota Housing in June to help fund another supportive housing complex in the area, titled East Conifer Estates. Conifer Villas is expected to open in fall 2020 and East Conifer Estates, if the application is approved, would follow in late 2021 or early 2022.