Affordable Housing Apartments Remodeled in Bigfork

Governor says lack of affordable housing a growing concern across state

By Justin Franz
Gov. Steve Bullock cuts a ribbon at the grand reopening of the Little Jon Apartments in Bigfork on Oct. 24. Justin Franz | Flathead Beacon

Homeword, a Missoula-based community housing development organization, and GMD Development have completed a $4.3 million renovation of a 31-unit affordable housing complex in Bigfork.

Gov. Steve Bullock joined the developers on Oct. 24 to celebrate the grand reopening of the Little Jon Apartments. Bullock noted that a lack of affordable housing is a growing concern across the state, especially in rapidly growing areas like the Flathead, and that more needs to be done to resolve that issue.

“How can you have a viable community if people of all stripes cannot afford a comfortable place to live?” Bullock said.

The four apartment buildings were constructed in 1994 as affordable housing units through the USDA’s Rural Development rental assistance program. The facility includes eight one-bedroom apartments, 20 two-bedroom apartments and three three-bedroom apartments. Andrea Davis, executive director of Homeword, said when the group found the buildings they were in need of a number of renovations, both internally and externally.

Working with GMD Development, Homeword was able to install energy-efficient appliances, water-conserving plumbing fixtures, energy-efficient windows, compact fluorescent and LED lighting, efficient water heaters and programmable thermostats. The exteriors of the buildings were also updated to give the complex a more modern look.

“As one of just two affordable properties in Bigfork, Little Jon Apartments are playing a big role in this community,” Davis said.

Residents of the apartment complex also spoke at the ribbon cutting, including Chris King, a single father of a teenage boy. He said being able to live close to his son’s school — the apartments are just across the football field from Bigfork High School — is a big help to his family.

“There is no way I could do this without Little Jon Apartments,” he said.

Besides updating the entire facility, Homeword’s renovation also guarantees the USDA rental subsidy, meaning rents will stay affordable for at least another 46 years. Davis said sometimes if the USDA rental subsidy is not maintained, affordable housing units can be sold into the general market and rents can drastically increase.

Homeword has helped renovate 22 properties in Montana in the last 24 years. For more information, visit www.homeword.org.

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