Homeword is committed to providing safe, healthy affordable homes using sustainable methods and promoting strong communities through housing counseling and education for those most in need.

Changing the lives of Montanans

  • posted by Andrea Davis
  • Featured Posts
Changing the lives of Montanans

I never cease to be reminded of why we do this work that you help make possible. Recently I struck up a conversation with a man and learned he was about to get knee surgery through the Veterans Administration. Through years of service and work, his knee wore out. He later fell on hard times when he returned from serving our country, eventually becoming homeless. But that all changed – largely because he was fortunate to receive a Section 8 housing voucher and find a home he could afford. He was glowing as he told me about his current job, the second job he’s about to apply for and his “family” of neighbors at the apartment building he calls home. This kind of story we hear often. The work we do changes lives – the lives of Veterans, children, seniors – the lives of Montanans. Thank you!

Demand for our services and expertise is at an all-time high. I'm writing you at a time when people’s ability to afford their homes is a pressing concern for communities across our region. I find myself in conversation with CEO's of hospitals, Executive Directors of nonprofits serving abused and neglected kids, and small business owners – to name a few. They all point to a lack of homes people can afford as a critical issue affecting their client base, their workforce and business growth. The good news is there are important steps we can take together to change this in Montana.

The Missoula Organization of Realtors and several community partners commissioned a study of the local market in 2017 and released the “Making Missoula Home” report in January. The 159-page document can be found here on the MOR website. Of note, 41% of Missoulians (about 12,000 people) are spending more than the recommended 30% of their income on their rents or mortgages. That’s the equivalent of the populations of East Missoula and Havre combined. The percentages vary somewhat from city to city across Montana, but the impact remains the same. Recommendations from the study include encouraging local governments and others to invest in homebuyer education and counseling, creating policies that make it easier or more feasible for developers to build homes people can afford and creating a local revolving fund to support an increased number of these homes.

These investments aren’t just good for one group of people, but produce extensive returns for many generations. People’s ability to afford their homes plays a substantial and reinforcing role in local economic development. When people have more money in their pockets from spending an appropriate percentage on their home costs, they can spend more at local businesses. Strategic investments in attainable homes are directly related to the health of our economy and society.

With your help, we made important progress this past year. In the summer we purchased the Creekside Apartments, preserving 160 affordably priced homes in Missoula. We celebrated the grand opening of 197 homes Montanans can afford at Sweetgrass Commons in Missoula (27 new homes), Larkspur Commons in Bozeman (136 new homes) and Little Jon Apartments in Bigfork (34 renovated homes). We served 1,150 people in our HomeOwnership Center with more folks than ever taking part in our Financial Education programs, including repeat coaching visits.

We face challenges from diminishing funding programs and, for example, an $80,000 gap in program support. In order to offer our services at little or no cost, we make up the difference with general funds that could otherwise be used to create more homes Montanans can afford. With your support, we can continue to be part of the local solution. Through policy work at the federal, state and local level we are working to maintain vital programs that make this work possible.

We will continue to share with you the advocacy opportunities we know of. You can also make a difference by continuing your support of Homeword, inviting your friends and neighbors to learn more, getting involved in your local decision making groups and letting your elected officials know that one of your top priorities is supporting the development of homes that Montanans can afford.

Thank you for your dedication to Montanans and for choosing to partner with us in championing homes for our Veterans, seniors, workers and children.

Together we are creating sustainable communities for all.