Gateway Vista Affordable Housing Project

A $3.8 million low income housing tax credit awarded Monday by the Montana Board of Housing to YWCA Billings means that construction can begin this spring on the Gateway Vista affordable housing project on the campus at 909 Wyoming Ave.

Courtesy of HGFA Architects

The Gateway Vista affordable housing project, run by YWCA Billings, will receive $3.8 million in low-income housing tax credit funding.

The tax credit funding, one of five awarded Monday by the Montana Board of Housing, covers most of the $4.6 million cost to construct 24 affordable apartments on the YWCA Billings campus at 909 Wyoming Ave. In December, the project was awarded $500,000 from the Federal Home Loan Bank.

YWCA Billings CEO Merry Lee Olson identified several people who worked to ensure the award after the project did not receive Montana Board of Housing funding last year. One in particular was Billings Mayor Tom Hanel, who went to Helena in November to testify to the board.

The YWCA’s tax credit consultant, Mountain Plains Equity Group, also played a role developing financial reports and working with the YWCA to process the project application. Olson also credited HGFA Architects, the Billings firm that designed the project, as well as YWCA Billings board members and staffers.

In the end, Olson said, members of the Montana Board of Housing told her on Monday it was “the stories about the people served that touched their hearts, and the wraparound services that will change lives.”

Gateway Vista will augment the YWCA’s current shelter, Gateway House, which has 10 units and has provided shelter for abused women and their children since 1989. Gateway Vista will also feature offices and counseling space for the wraparound services that can help give the women being sheltered a chance to succeed.

Olson said four other projects shared in the most recent round of funding: Browning, $6.7 million; Great Falls, $6.7 million; Polson, $6.15 million; and a joint Wolf Point/Culbertson project, partially funded at $2.7 million.

“The needs for affordable housing across the state are immense, and the allocations for Montana are small,” Olson said. "So we are very fortunate to be the recipient of the funding.”

Olson said she hopes to help raise an additional $1 million from private donors and foundations during the coming months to cover capital and capacity funding gaps. Women and their children often come to the shelter unable to pay any rent. A reserve fund helps fill the gap, she said, while women at the shelter begin receiving services, taking courses and receiving counseling as they work to re-establish their independence.

“This project is unique,” she said, “because it goes beyond offering a roof over people’s heads to providing numerous wraparound services to help them truly get on their feet and become financially independent and break away from the cycles of violence and poverty.”

The plan is to break ground in May with construction to be completed in mid-2018.

YWCA Billings has been serving people throughout central and Eastern Montana for 110 years. The agency works to save, change and improve lives through its shelter and transitional services programs.

Learn more about the YWCA Billings and its programs by visiting www.ywcabillings.org or by calling 406-252-6303.

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City Government Reporter

City reporter for The Billings Gazette.