Homeword uses sustainable methods to provide safe, healthy homes people can afford and strengthens community through housing counseling and education for those in need.

Who lives in affordable housing?

  • posted by Jessica Burson
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Who lives in affordable housing?

People often ask, “Who lives at your affordable housing properties?” It’s an excellent question and one we’re happy to answer.

It’s pretty simple - community members live there. Mothers. Fathers. Sons. Daughters. Grandparents. They are part of our communities just as you are. Our housing is home to a variety of people. Many work jobs that pay low to moderate wages, such as teachers, nurses, law enforcement, retail workers and bus drivers. Others are retired, veterans or have disabilities and are living on fixed incomes such as Social Security, which is often $1,200 per month or less. About 1/3 of the residents who live at our properties in Missoula are children. For all of these people, safe and healthy housing that they can afford provides a platform for the other areas of their lives.

Residents of our properties enjoy having their friends and family over for dinner. They celebrate special occasions together in the community rooms. They walk their service animals around the property and use the bike and walking trails to get around. They grow tomatoes and strawberries, go to school, volunteer for local causes and help their kids with homework. They value community and are active and integrated into the areas where they live.

They include people like Bonnie, who is a retired teacher. “I worked for many years and had a medical challenge that changed my life in one day. I moved in with my son and his several children and animals. I looked at six apartments. They were all high priced – double what they were worth and much more than I could afford. The moment I walked into the apartment at the Solstice I knew it was the place for me.

My home is safe and affordable. There are many amenities, like the laundry room and community room that make Solstice a great place to live. The community room is especially important. The other residents and I have parties there. We’ve had Valentine’s parties, Halloween parties and even a Thanksgiving meal. We take care of each other.

The location is wonderful. It’s close to the river, trail and bus stop. The green space in between the buildings is so nice. I get outside and walk around. I am proud to live here. I grow strawberries and tomatoes on my deck. I keep it neat and clean.

The parking garage is also nice. I live in a secure building. I feel safe here. I enjoy going to bed knowing somebody isn’t coming into the building to break in to my apartment. There are many times I could have been homeless. I’m glad to be here. Affordable housing is so needed in this community. Thank you for making it possible.”

Residents pay rent at our properties and those are priced for people who earn between 40-60% of the area median income. Our housing provides residents with savings of about $200-$400 per month over paying market rent rates, which is especially significant for people earning $10 an hour or less. In Missoula, 100% of the area median income is $43,200 so someone earning 50% of that earns $21,150 (that’s $10/hour gross wage for full time job).  Wages in Montana have notoriously not kept up with the cost of living. And housing costs are considered affordable when they are 30% or less of your income. Yet many Montanans pay more than 30% for rent, including 54% of Missoula renters. Some spend more than 50% of their income on housing. Knowing this, it comes as no surprise that one in six Missoulians used the Missoula Food Bank last year or that people in our community and across the state struggle to make ends meet on a daily basis.

Have housing that they can afford means that people are able to stretch their budgets to cover other expenses – food, transportation, insurance, clothing, education, savings and more – so they can provide for their children and look forward to a better future. It also means they can worry a little less, create a more calming atmosphere for themselves and their families and that they have more energy to engage with their neighbors. Sustainable communities aren’t built overnight – they are built one family at a time over a number of years. Young, old, single, married, working, retired – we’re all family and community members. And housing, whether it’s moldy and drafty or safe and healthy, is where every person and family in our community begins and ends their day. It’s up to us to determine what type of housing they will be in when they wake up in the morning and go to bed at night.