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Affordable senior living complex ready for tenants

Press Photo by Nadya Faulx Stark County Housing Authority administrative assistant Elizabeth Schendel, right, gives a tour of the Heritage Hills apartments to future tenants Thursday. The affordable senior living complex is one of just a few options for seniors unable to keep up with inflating rents in Dickinson and much of North Dakota.

Dickinson’s latest affordable living complex opened its doors for a tour Thursday, offering future and potential tenants a glimpse at the 42 units that will be ready for move-in in September.

Heritage Hills, at Sixth Street West and Dakota Boulevard, will offer a total of 81 affordable units for residents 55 and older, providing needed options for a segment of the community that’s been hardest-hit by inflated rent prices.

“A lot of seniors have already left Dickinson,” said Blake Strehlow, executive director of the Stark County Housing Authority.

He said many head east — first to Bismarck, a city experiencing its own housing crunch — then Jamestown, Valley City or Fargo.

The new complex will join Villard Square and Villard Terrace as the city’s primary affordable housing options for seniors. Rent at Heritage Hills will be based on income, Strehlow said, with the most expensive rent, for a two-bedroom unit, capping off at $730 per month; the Stark County Housing Authority offers vouchers to residents whose often-limited incomes can’t cover the rent.

Funding for the complex came from a variety of sources, including federal tax credits, the Housing Incentive Fund, the American Bank Center and a Community Development Block Grant from the Department of Community Services.

“There are several layers of financing,” said Dan Madler, Chief Operating Officer of Beyond Shelter, the development organization behind Heritage Hills. “Each one plays a critical role.”

Financing is tight, he said, with demand among organizations outpacing what the federal government filters to states.

“They’re precious dollars,” he said. “There’s strong competition for those funds.”

Even with limited funds, Beyond Shelter plans to break ground on five total projects, including a senior housing project in Minot and workforce housing in Burlington, in what Madler calls the group’s “benchmark year.”

An affordable senior project in Fargo opened in 2008 still has a waitlist of 80 people. Madler expects Heritage Hills to fill up just as quickly.

Forty-two units, including several that are handicap-accessible, will be available in September; when funding is available, a second phase of construction will bring an additional 39 units.

Beyond Shelter is currently looking for land for its next Dickinson project, with a hopeful groundbreaking in fall 2015, Madler said.

Approximately dozen future tenants who have already submitted applications for Heritage Hills attended Thursday’s “dusty shoes” preview, and applications are still being accepted. Another open house will be held Friday from 1 pm to 4 pm.

Lynette Dillinger, program manager with the Stark County Housing Authority, said the idea behind Heritage Hills is to try to keep longtime Dickinson residents in the community.

“Hopefully this will help,” she said.