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.

Homes for our Veterans, seniors, workers and children

Sitting down to write this letter after one of the coldest February’s I can remember, I am so grateful I have a warm home of my own, a good job and healthy food to eat. A weather episode like that – that we’re still in as I write this - is a reminder to me of how vulnerable life can be, but also how interdependent we are. And that certainly is a reminder of why this work that you help make possible is so incredibly important.

Collectively, we’ve gone beyond identifying we have a problem. There is more dialog than ever before about why our real estate market is out of reach and what we can do about it. Thanks to you, Homeword has been at the table, helping lead the conversation to find solutions that make our communities strong. Your support helps us continue to undertake innovative projects and programs that build healthy places, hearts and minds.

Homeword puts its weight of experience and enthusiasm into policy work because we know we can achieve the vision of sustainable communities for all when we have the right tools in place. Over the past year, we’ve worked closely with leaders in Missoula to help develop a comprehensive housing policy by participating on the Housing Policy Steering Committee and Technical Working Groups. We are also active members of the Montana Housing Coalition, which strives for a cohesive home creation policy in Montana. With early support from the Local Government Interim Committee, two bills are advancing through the legislature.

One is House Bill 16, which creates a loan program that invests a portion of the Montana permanent coal tax trust fund into housing projects for Montana’s workforce and seniors. Another is Senate Bill 18, which establishes a state workforce housing tax credit that will augment the federal housing credit and has the potential to double the number of homes built or preserved each year that our workers, seniors, children and Veterans call home.

When Montanans can afford safe homes and make wise financial decisions, their families are healthier and our communities are stronger.

Homeownership remains one of the best paths out of poverty – an opportunity to build assets. It is a dream for thousands of Montanans, yet out of reach for so many. Our Montana Street Homes in Missoula are six small homes for sale through the Community Land Trust model that illustrate what can be achieved through innovation and partnership.

Small but mighty, this project broke out of the box by repurposing an odd-shaped lot once occupied by a manufactured home and car parts, employing contemporary zoning tools and financing options, placing pre-built modular structures on permanent foundations (with crawl spaces) and leveraging public investment to improve neighborhood utility infrastructure. Partners including the Missoula Food Bank, Garden City Harvest and the Missoula Redevelopment Agency worked with us to create a vibrant place these homebuyers will soon call home. Three of the homes are yet to go under contract. The Montana Street Homes offer a fantastic alternative to renting, so please share this news with family and friends who may be interested in buying one. We are looking forward to celebrating with the homeowners this spring!

With your help, we’ve made this important progress – and more. We acquired an aging HUD-funded property in Billings named Fraser Tower. This well-cared-for property has 64 apartments that are safe and healthy homes that seniors aging in place can afford. We also started construction of Starner Gardens in Billings, in partnership with GMD Development out of Washington. These 136 new homes are also for seniors and will be enjoyed by residents of Billings and those looking to relocate there for reasons such as medical care.

Thanks to you, our HomeOwnership Center in Missoula is thriving with education and counseling services in high demand. These include navigating the homebuying process, coaching on improving credit scores, creating plans to reduce debt and empowering people to be successful renters. We are taking some of these on the road to our partneragencies to better reach their clients and neighbors. These programs are a key component to the larger picture of education and awareness. They also especially support our fellow community members who have higher barriers to finding a good home where they can flourish.

We do face challenges from diminishing funding programs and, for example, an $80,000 gap in program support. To offer our services at little or no cost (including free childcare so parents can attend our classes), 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.