The federally subsidized Vantage Villa Apartments were badly damaged by an arson-caused fire on June 13. Most of the residents, who are primarily disabled or elderly, are currently being housed at the Red Lion Motel on Broadway.

Laurie Davidson, Executive Director of the Missoula Housing Authority, the agency responsible for the complex, described the situation facing the displaced residents.

"Vantage Villa is 44 units of federally subsidized housing," Davidson said. "The housing authority owns and manages those units. The tenants pay 30% of their adjusted gross income for rent, and then HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development) gives us a subsidy to bring it up to a level where we can operate and maintain the units."

"Since the fire, we've temporarily put most of the residents up at the Red Lion Motel," Davidson continued. "Some of them have gone with friends and family, and we are in the process of locating other units where we can house them temporarily."

Davidson said the current Vantage Villa apartments can be rebuilt.

"After looking at the damage, at this point, it's entirely possible to rebuild it," Davidson said. "We have insurance on it which will pay for rebuilding it, and that's our plan at the current time. We've had a structural engineer go through the building, and it is structurally sound, but it will require that all the floors, ceilings and walls be torn down and removed because there's so much water damage. Part of the structure has been completely destroyed by the fire, so that will have to be rebuilt. In six months or a year, we could have the structure rebuilt so the residents could move back in."

Some estimates put the cost of rebuilding at between $3 and $5 million dollars.

Davidson said that housing the residents at the Red Lion is very expensive, even though the motel has offered the rooms at a long-term discount.

"The Red Lion gave us a very good price on the rooms, they discounted the rooms for us," Davidson said. "We're probably looking at between $40,000 to $50,000 in total costs by the time we're able to move everyone out of the motel, probably a little more than that, actually. "While they're in the motel, we're giving the tenants a per diem, based on the federal daily rate to cover meals and incidentals, and that's $51.00 a day."

Davidson said the search has been going on to find temporary one-bedroom apartments for the residents since the fire on June 13,

"The housing authority will be, on a temporary basis, covering a portion of their rent," Davidson said. "They will continue to pay 30% of their income for rent because they're still receiving a subsidy from us, and we'll be paying the landlords an amount to make up the rent. It will operate somewhat like our voucher program. We are seeking people who have available units, especially one-bedroom units, and they would need to be inspected by our housing quality standards inspector to ensure that they are safe. Our housing department would look at the rent to make sure it's a reasonable rent that we can afford to pay. We'd be happy to sign six-month leases, and then we would move the tenants back into Vantage Villa when units become available."

Travis David Crosby, 28, has admitted to starting a fire in his apartment that eventually led to a general alarm fire at Vantage Villa. He told authorities he was angry about receiving an eviction notice before he intentionally set the fire.He is still in the Missoula County Jail on $75,000 bond.

Laurie Davidson, Executive Director of the Missoula Housing Authority