For years, commanders at Malmstrom Air Force Base and the Montana Air National Guard had complained about the lack of affordable, quality housing in Great Falls, Mont. But then the Great Falls Development Authority (GFDA) made the issue a priority, and the area has seen its fastest housing boost in decades.
“When we realized the availability and quality of our rental housing stock were having a negative effect on both airmen and private sector talent attraction, we made it an economic development priority, treating high-quality apartment construction as we do other target industries,” said Brett Doney, CEO and president of GFDA.
Doney assembled a team to study the housing shortage and made new apartment developments their immediate goal. At the time, the local apartment vacancy rate was estimated to be under 2%, and the area had not any substantial apartment construction in decades. They originally set a goal of 500 new units constructed but later doubled that number.
They performed market research and housing studies, targeted developers, helped locate sites, supported land use approvals, helped secure tax credits, raised local equity and provided substantial bridge financing during construction and unit leasing.
“We were able land some great developers to produce apartments at a wide range of price points,” Doney said.
Talus Apartment Homes, an upscale, 216-unit development rented so quickly the developer added 72 units for a total of 288. The same developer has just secured land use approvals for another 216-unit development. The nearby Rockcress Commons is a 124-unit project still under construction and will be the first in the state to take advantage of both 4% and 9% housing tax credits.
But GFDA has not rested on its mission to improve the area’s overall housing availability. They have expanded their new affordable housing portfolio in the area, and Doney’s team is now seeking developers to produce family homes in the $150,000 to $250,000 range.
Photo provided by the Great Falls Development Authority