MISSOULA – The city and county of Missoula both provide millions of dollars in funding for homelessness and housing, including the purchase of properties to keep some people housed.
City investment will use $ 2.1 million to buy 20 units at Bridge Apartments while Neighborworks, a nonprofit, hopes to receive a $ 1.3 million grant to help 20 other residents buy their park of mobile homes.
This common fund was made available through the CARES Law.
“Home ownership continues to be even more inaccessible in our community,” said Kaia Peterson, CEO of Neighborworks. “We see this as a great way to support existing residents and also deal with some of the COVID impacts that we are seeing. “
Peterson said manufactured and mobile home communities in and around Missoula are facing redevelopment of their properties. This leaves these residents at a higher risk of displacement.
As part of the program, known as Communities owned by residents, residents can buy their mobile home fleet and create a stable and affordable place to live. The $ 1.3 million funding would support the preservation of 20 homes, amounting to approximately $ 65,000 per household.
“Historically, we have been able to support this program without grants, grants or government dollars. But in the current market, that’s not realistic, ”said Peterson. “There is so much pressure for redevelopment and pressure on rent increases that we are not able to buy these properties at the rate the current sellers are striving to achieve. “
According to Peterson, without the grant, the current rate per lot in Targeted Development would drop from $ 425 per month to $ 1,000 per month to support the acquisition and preservation of the property. With the grant, however, Neighborworks could make a market offer to a vendor and keep the land rent below $ 600 per month.
The effort has the backing of the city.
“There is no longer an owner,” said Mayor John Engen. “The inhabitants themselves own it. This helps residents buy and maintain the mobile home park themselves.
The city is also moving ahead with the purchase of the Bridge Apartments – a deal approved by Missoula City Council on Monday evening. This $ 2.1 million offer would also save 20 housing units, which equates to $ 110,000 per household.
Residents of the facility are considered low income with special needs.
“We should take care of these people and make sure they are welcome, safe and housed in our community,” said Gwen Jones, board member. “This is the opportunity we have before us today.”
Still, the agreement to purchase the Bridge Apartments from Western Montana Mental Health remains controversial, as the building was constructed in the 1990s with taxpayer funding. Asking the public to buy the very building they paid for has led some to oppose the deal.
Board member Jesse Ramos accused Western Montana Mental Health of abdicating responsibility and taking advantage of taxpayers. He also suggested that the city was playing the game by agreeing to the purchase and, therefore, was irresponsible with taxpayer dollars.
“This is something, in my opinion, that the government got it wrong when it funded the WMMH. Now the people who hold the bag are the taxpayers, ”Ramos said. “There are people in this town right now who don’t qualify for these homes and who could use these tax increase distributions and other tax reduction methods to stay in their own homes. It is the government that cleans up after the government.
Among other things, the city’s new housing policy calls for the preservation of existing affordable housing, especially given the cost of building new housing. Maintaining 20 apartments for $ 110,000 per unit is below the market rate for housing, even though funding is subsidized, some said.
The city will attempt to sell the property once its purchase is completed and recoup a portion of its $ 2.1 million investment.
“When I see this project as an opportunity to keep 20 people off the streets for the cost of $ 110,000 per house, I find it incredibly unique,” said Heather Harp, board member. “Is it perfect? Absolutely not. But we are at a point in our community where we have to follow our moral compass.