Community members and dignitaries celebrated Friday morning the completion and dedication of the $17 million St. Johns United affordable housing project, called Chapel Court.
Speakers at the event included Billings Mayor Bill Cole, St. John's United President and CEO David Trost, and video appearances from U.S. Sen. Steve Daines and Gov. Greg Gianforte.
Chapel Court features 56 one-bedroom apartment units with a new building entrance, coffee shop, beauty shop, refreshed commons area, and new public bathrooms. It's located on the St. John campus at 2429 Mission Way in Billings. The facility will be available to those at least 62 years of age, making 60 percent of the area median income or less.
“You wouldn’t imagine that it would be more than just a place to live. They are part of amenities like this coffee shop, a beautiful salon to do your hair, activity staff that are all around creating social engagement opportunities, and also access that is close and immediate for healthcare needs that they may have in the future,” said Trost Friday morning.
Trost said the Billings community was behind the affordable housing project because they knew the importance and need for senior housing. Nearly half the project, about $8 million, was publicly funded through tax credits.
“That $17 million was broken up in half and it took us $9 million to raise to make this physical place happen. The other $8 million will be raised for an endowment, to support those that have outlived their resources. They didn’t choose to be poor; they outlived their resources. That’s how healthy people are, and we have a responsibility to take care of them,” said Trost.
St. John’s United launched their people portion of the campaign where they are asking the public to help them reach their goal of raising $8 million for residents that do not have the money to stay in the affordable housing complex. As of Friday, they are $1.5 million away from their goal.
“We need to support people as they age healthier and longer in life,” said Trost.
Multiple community groups and businesses were used to fund the affordable housing project, including First Interstate Bank in Billings.
“This was a tremendous team effort across so many sectors of the Billings community. The Montana Board of Housing awarded us federal tax credits that we needed to really launch this forward and locally here First Interstate Bank was a tremendous supporter of this effort,” said Tom Schlotterback, St. John’s United vice president of mission advancement.
Schlotterback said the vision, planning, and application process for the project started back in 2018. Later in the fall of 2018, the Montana Board of Housing awarded St. John’s with the federal tax credits, which totaled over $8 million. First Interstate Bank helped to convert those credits into dollars, which would be used to pay for the demolition of wing two, Chapel Court (the old complex) and start construction of the existing building.
“I have lived (here) for 13 years and I have waited for this almost two years. I have seen this built over here from the ground up. I love it. It’s like God opened the doors and let me have this room, and this is beautiful. I've got a kitchen, a dining room, and I got a bedroom and a bathroom. I can see over the Rims and it is just beautiful,” said Nadjii Hanika, a long-term resident of the complex.
For more information on St. John’s United and how to donate, visit their website at stjohnsunited.org.