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Excitement abounds for upcoming Oakwood Village purchase


Last updated 4/17/2020 at 3:03pm

Havre Daily News/Jack Lambert

Oakwood Village Apartments are seen on a quiet Monday afternoon in Montana Department of Commerce has made a positive decision to award Affiliated Developers Inc. a $3.6 million loan through the Multifamily Coal Trust Homes Program to purchase and renovate the apartment complex.

Excitement and hope have been inspired by the recent announcement that the Montana Department of Commerce has confirmed funds for a project to rehabilitate Oakwood Village Apartments.

Affiliated Developers Inc. will receive $3.6 million through the Multifamily Coal Trust Homes program to acquire the property and has plans to renovate and refurbish the 60-unit low-income housing structure.

Associated Developers did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Oakwood Village Management Agent Karen Burkett said these funds will be used to improve property functionally and aesthetically.

"We do have a plan," Burkett said. "Of course, the most important things would be the roof the building's exterior and building interior as it comes to upgraded appliances that are more energy efficient.

"They'll all get new paint, they'll all probably get new floors, and then updated kitchens and bathrooms," she added.

Burkett said replacing the property's appliances will not only improve the lives of the residents, but make Oakwood more energy efficient.

"It will save money in the long run," she said.

Burkett's excitement is shared by Justin P. Doney, a maintenance worker who has been employed at Oakwood for eight years.

"I'm excited for everyone living here, and I'm excited for everyone who will be living here after this is done," Doney said, "This is really gonna be a nice-looking place."

He said as he's worked on the property, he's learned just how old some parts of the property are.

"Over time I've gotten to learn this building and it's old you know, there's pre-'70s stuff in here," he said.

He said some of the appliances in the building are current year, but that's only in cases where old ones needed to be replaced, and he said being able to update all Oakwood's appliances will make his job easier.

"A lot of this stuff should have a good lifespan, that means less maintenance for me to take care of," Doney said.

He said he was particularly happy about the prospect of getting more efficient bathroom appliances.

"When you say, 'water efficient,' that's huge because we run quite a bit of water," he said.

He also said more efficient LED lighting would make a great deal of difference in the property's the electric bills.

"I'm so looking forward to having a new place," Doney said.

Burkett, whose company also owns Hillview Apartments, said the renovations done on that building could be used as an indicator for the results of improvements that are going to be made at Oakwood.

"It's been, oh gosh, five, six, seven years now since it (Hillview) had been renovated and it's still in the same shape, so this is gonna sustain this housing for many years to come," she said.

Bear Paw Development Corp. Executive Director Paul Tuss said the funds received by Affiliated Developers and the refurbishment to follow were a necessity for Oakwood.

"There are often time facilities like this were if you let them go even further they're not worth saving, and I believe with the type of investment we are talking about Oakwood Village is gonna get a much needed facelift," Tuss said.

He and Burkett said Oakwood was not in danger of becoming uninhabitable in the near future, but down the line, habitability was a concern.

"It's not like the place is gonna fall down tomorrow, but in a few years we may have not have been able to continue to occupy the buildings," Burkett said.

Tuss said the renovations will go a long way to improving not just the building itself, but the surrounding area.

"I think what this will do is it will take an aging facility that has not received a lot of TLC over the course of the past several decades and update it into a more modern facility a more livable facility, a facility you'd be proud to live in, and certainly a facility that will enhance the neighborhood in which it is located," he said.

He said the recent funding for the purchase of Oakwood Village should be considered a boon for the city.

"This is a very positive move for Havre. I mean any time you can have $3.6 million come into the community to update our affordable housing stock, that's nothing to sneeze at."

Havre Mayor Tim Solomon's comments echoed that.

"Every step closer is fantastic news, because there's definitely a need there," he said.

Burkett said the occupancy rate of Oakwood Village has been consistently high, but she thinks these renovations will convince people to stay there instead of moving to another facility at the first opportunity which is a problem she has seen over the years.

"I mean, they would stay in Oakwood and then immediately put their names on the list to move to Hillview, which has been rehabbed and is beautiful," she said.

Burkett said this phenomenon is not surprising to her but is still a cause for concern.

Havre Daily News/Jack Lambert

Oakwood Village Maintenance Director Justin P. Doney salts the sidewalks Monday outside of the apartment complex.

"People will stay where they have to stay in order to get reduced rent, but if you can get a nicer place then of course that's where you're going to go," she said.

Burkett said the planned renovations will begin soon.

"The rehab will start, we hope, in June and will be completed by the end of August," she said.

She said there was a possibility that that timetable could be pushed back in the wake of the COIVD-19 pandemic, but that she thought it was unlikely because the construction involved could probably be done while complying with social distancing guidelines.

"I can't imagine it would delay us too much ... I think they can probably get started," Burkett said.

Doney said the residents of Oakview have been informed about the renovations to come and he's looking forward to seeing them completed.

"To have it redone and remodeled is gonna be something else," he said.


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