Work on Conifer Villas completed with more housing on the way

The second phase of a housing initiative along Conifer Avenues has been finished. The $10 million, 32-unit Conifer Villas project was finished recently and the third phase, East Conifer Estates, is expected to be finished in August 2022.

Work on the Conifer Villas, a multi-housing effort by the Headwaters Regional Development Commission, was recently completed. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- An effort originating from a meeting more than a decade ago to provide supportive housing along Conifer Avenue has taken another step forward.

In May, work was completed on a nearly $10 million project titled Conifer Villas, a 32-unit housing complex on Conifer Avenue. The 32 units are split up in four buildings, with each structure containing eight units.

The project was the second Conifer housing initiative in the last decade, with the other being the 20-unit Conifer Estates .

The housing initiative has been supported by the Bemidji-based Headwaters Regional Development Commission, which worked to ensure the multi-family homes were supportive. HRDC Executive Director Tim Flathers said supportive units are designed to provide housing stability for families or individuals who've been recently homeless.

Rent costs for supportive housing units are usually subsidized and rent vouchers are often used. Additionally, the units have several service components to assist residents.


"The key distinction with supportive housing is that it's permanent," Flathers said. "So people who qualify don't have a timeline where they have to move out, it's there for them. There are also services provided and they can vary depending on who's involved."

Flathers said services can range from helping residents find access to transportation, to assisting with writing a resume. As part of the Conifer Villas project, a community center area was included on the premises where residents can meet with support staff.

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The buildings were designed by Lucachick Architecture and built by Kraus-Anderson Construction Co. The construction work for the building cost $7 million.

To fund the project, the HRDC utilized housing infrastructure bonds from the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency . Additionally, the HRDC relied on a federal low income tax credit and a grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank's Affordable Housing Program.

According to Flathers, the concept for the Conifer housing buildings originated at a meeting convened by the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, the Red Lake Nation and White Earth Nation in 2007. The meeting was focused on homelessness and homeownership.

"I was particularly interested in promoting homeownership during the meeting," Flathers said. "We had some discussions around the table about the subject and a representative from the Corp. for Supportive Housing said there were resources available through the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency to develop new complexes."

The Conifer Estates building was finished in 2012 and a third complex is in the works. The next complex, estimated at $7 million, will be titled East Conifer Estates and will be the final phase on the avenue.

Flathers said the HRDC is looking to complete financing work in late July and have East Conifer Estates finished in August 2022.

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