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Highland Manor renovations fully funded by Montana Board of Housing

 

Last updated 10/26/2020 at 11:39am

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Snow falls on one of the units of Highland Manor Wednesday. Montana Board of Housing approved full funding for the renovation of the apartment complext in Highland Park.

Renovations on Highland Manor in Havre, which its new prospective owner Beki Brandborg of Echo Enterprises in Helena has been planning for the last few months, are due to go on in the wake of the Montana Board of Housing electing to fund the project in full Monday.

Renovations are planned for all 32 apartments with approximately $83,000 available for each one, with additional funds for sidewalks, parking lots, and upgrading the playground on the property.

Brandborg said most of the funds will be spent on new appliances, improving the building's energy efficiency, installing new multipaned windows and flat floors for easier cleaning.

She said Bjerke Architects in Helena are looking at the property and making advisements on how best to use the funds, but said part of the agreement with the housing board is that installed equipment will last at least 45 years.

Brandborg said one thing in particular she wants for Highland Manor is increased handicap accessibility, which she said she takes very seriously, and she want to make every ground-level apartment accessible.

"We are aging as a population," she said, "I mean it is ridiculous not to build those in."

She said she's also hoping to put in as much solar power as she can, but for now she can only guarantee it for the outside lighting.

Brandborg also said she's looking to put key cards on the exterior doors and Energy Star Front-Loading washers and driers in the building.

She said they're looking at late spring early summer of next year for the renovations which will involve moving residents out in shifts for six to eight weeks.

Brandborg said in purchasing the property it will still retain its status as a USDA Rural Development Property which provides residents rental assistance which she said is important as 81 percent of residents are in the 0 to 30 percent of area median income.

She said the process of transferring ownership of properties like this is not difficult but is extremely involved and lengthy, but it's all worth it when she gets to see people enjoying the improvements to properties.

"It's so wonderful to have these folks be so happy about the results," she said.

Brandborg said the meeting in Helena at which this was decided was something of a nail-biter due to the highly competitive nature of these kinds of applications, but individuals and organizations in Havre, including Havre Daily News Publisher Stacy Mantle, spoke or sent letters of support which made it clear how important this funding would be.

Havre Mayor Tim Solomon, Hill County Commissioner Mark Peterson, Executive Director of Bear Paw Development Corp. Paul Tuss, District 4 Human Resources and Development Council Executive Director Carilla French and Havre City and Finance Clerk Doug Kaercher all spoke at the meeting in favor of the project.

"It was extraordinary testimony," Brandborg said, "They came from different perspectives, but they all hit the nail on the head, and it was extremely valuable."

She said the meeting resulted in not just Highland Manor getting its renovations funded but every application the board received got its full or partial award funding, which she said is exciting and extremely unusual.

"I've never seen that happen," she said, " ... Not in 20 years."

She said Kaercher's testimony, in which he called the renovations a unique and exiting opportunity, was particularly helpful as he is a former housing board member and has exceptional knowledge about the process and what these funds are best for.

"He totally understands the whole ball of wax," she said.

"Havre's rental property stocks are poor to marginal at best, therefore, anytime there is an opportunity to improve these resources it is a win for everybody in the community." Kaercher said in a statement to the Havre Daily News. "It is a tough job for the Board of Housing to allocate these monies around the state as almost all projects are needed in their communities. I would just like to thank the board for seeing how important this project is to Havre."

Tuss, who also spoke at the meeting, echoed Kaercher, saying it is great for the area's housing stock and a huge positive step for the community.

"The recent decision by the Montana Board of Housing to fully fund the renovation of Highland Manor is one additional step in significantly upgrading the community's housing stock," he said. "One of the major obstacles most communities have in creating more livable neighborhoods is the age and condition of their housing. This will be a multi-million investment that will rehabilitate Highland Manor, including the addition of handicap-accessible units. This was a positive decision that will benefit Havre and the Hi-Line for decades to come."

 

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