BUTTE, Mont. - The COVID-19 pandemic has put a strain on renters and homebuyers. But more affordable housing options could be coming to the Mining City.

On Monday, the Butte-Silver Bow City-County Council held a public meeting to discuss their plan to bring more affordable housing to Butte. Based on the positive response, they're ready to go forward with their plan.

The target location is the Phoenix Building on Main Street, which is already home to a number of businesses, including Oro Fino Coffee and the Imagine Butte Resource Center. But much of the building's upper floors have been unused for years. The city sees that as an opportunity to turn those vacant spaces into 15 new affordable housing units.

Following building inspection and planning that has taken course over the past three years, the city shared it proposal with the public this week, and the response was just what they were looking for.

"We did have a public meeting to receive comments on [the proposal], and we received only positive comments about that application, so we are going to move forward with submitting that," said Karen Byrnes, the community development director for Butte-Silver Bow.

The next step is to received funding from the state via the Community Development Block Grant program. Byrnes say that the city will submit the application later this week. The city submitted a similar proposal in 2018 that was rejected at the time, but Byrnes feels confident that the updated proposal has a greater focus and, thus, a greater chance of being accepted.

Just like homebuyers and many other things, the COVID-19 pandemic has put a strain on the proposal's application process. But with over 100 homeless people in the county according to Action Inc. and with housing prices on the rise, Byrnes notes how it's more important now than ever to provide the citizens of Butte with some relief.

"[The pandemic] has really highlighted the need for affordable-housing-type projects to be completed throughout the state," Byrnes said. "All of these projects, if we work on them together, will be transformative."

The timeline for the Phoenix Building is still very much a work-in-progress. Byrnes says, best case scenario, tenants will begin inhabiting the Phoenix Building a couple years down the road, if everything goes according to plan.

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