Affordable housing fills niche for older residents

Dickinson's stock of affordable housing just went up. The Heritage Hills apartment complex, intended for a population of fixed-income residents ages 55 and older, held a dedication Wednesday to celebrate the recent completion of the second and fi...

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Louise and Andrew Volesky, left and center, and Don Hauck, right, sit in a common area after the dedication of Heritage Hills, an apartment complex designed to provide affordable housing to households aged 55-plus, on Wednesday in Dickinson. All three are residents at the complex. (Press Photo by Andrew Haffner)

Dickinson’s stock of affordable housing just went up.
The Heritage Hills apartment complex, intended for a population of fixed-income residents ages 55 and older, held a dedication Wednesday to celebrate the recent completion of the second and final phase of the 81-unit building at 2585 Dakota Boulevard in west Dickinson.
Resident Bev Kuntz has lived in her apartment since June, but had previously lived with her late husband on a farm outside of Dickinson for 43 years after moving down from New Hradec.
“I’m by myself, a lot of my friends are here and it’s a nice place,” she said, explaining her choice to live at Heritage Hills. “There’s always something going on, entertainment or something like that.”
Living in the apartment complex has also eliminated her need to drive, which Kuntz counts as a good thing.
The affordable housing project was the result of a wide partnership including non-profit developer, Fargo-based Beyond Shelter Inc., the state-run North Dakota Housing Finance Agency and general contractor Roers Construction.
Leaders from each of the participating entities were present Wednesday, as were representatives for North Dakota’s U.S. Sens. Heidi Heitkamp and John Hoeven, and Rep. Kevin Cramer.
Beyond Shelter CEO Dan Madler said facilities like Heritage Hills address a need for aging North Dakota residents unable to boost their incomes after retirement.
“Regarding communities, for their economic viability, you need to have housing for all income bandwidths,” Madler said. “This market is perfect for the household that has lived here all their lives, they just sold their home, are on a fixed income and can only afford a certain amount of rent.”
The lowest rent for a one-bedroom apartment at Heritage Hills is $352 per month -- the highest monthly rent for a two-bedroom is $730.
Madler said the Dickinson complex, managed by the Stark County Housing Authority, is one of his company’s biggest projects and is just three units smaller than its largest.
Construction of Heritage Hills was split into two phases of roughly equal size.
Phase one, the first 42 units of the complex, began in the fall of 2013, was completed around a year later and is now fully occupied.
Crews broke ground for phase two, which consisted of the final 39 units, in fall 2014. The second stage was completed earlier this fall.
Madler said there are five tenants moved into apartments in the second half, with leasing extended into the spring.
He anticipates the complex to be fully occupied by then.
Residents Andrew and Louise Volesky moved into Heritage Hills when they could no longer keep up their home and yard in Dickinson.
The couple said the house’s stairs had also presented a challenge.
“Being on oxygen and carrying that,” Andrew said, gesturing to his walker, “there was no way.”
He added that pulling weeds and keeping the driveway clear of snow was also out of the question.
Both Voleskys acknowledged the social aspect they shared with the other residents, with whom they could easily get together for visits, coffee and card games, as a benefit of Heritage Hills -- the lack of stairs was another.
The transition to apartment life had not been without its own challenges though.
“We had to downsize, which was really the hard part,” Louise began, before Andrew picked up to say the couple had built their home and lived in it for 49 years.
“And now we have to give it up, and I hate it too, because we had no choice,” he said.
Louise took up the thread of conversation again to finish the point.
“When you can’t do it, you hate to see it go downhill,” she said. “You have to give it up.”


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