Members of the Missoula City Council on Monday approved the first allocation from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund and lauded nearly two years of work to establish the process and committee that's charged with its oversight.

The council approved the recommended $26,000 allocation to the United Way of Missoula County and its consumer housing services program. It was the first allocation from the trust fund, which the city established roughly two years ago.

“To have come this far is really great in local government, because this is a heavy lift,” said council member Gwen Jones. “I know it's a small disbursement, but it's a strong first step forward.”

Three applications sought funding in the first round that exceeded the $300,000 made available by nearly $150,000. While only $26,000 was ultimately awarded, those behind the effort said the “innovation round” helped improve the process.

The remaining funding will go back into the trust fund for later uses.

“I know this was an educational process and there were other applicants. But part of this first scoring round was to set expectations, create education and figure out how to use this fund,” said Jones. “I think it was very constructive from that. We're starting to get some momentum.”

Those charged with administering the balance of the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund made headway last week in determining future allocations, and they agreed to hold 20% of the fund in reserve each year for unexpected projects.

With a balance of $3.1 million, holding 20% in reserve amounts to around $634,000.

The city is planning two more funding rounds next year and with around $3.1 million available, the oversight committee has recommended that roughly $2 million be used for housing construction, $352,000 for affordable housing preservation and $100,000 for developer incentives.

“The committee is very much looking forward to the next round,” said committee member and Mayor John Engen. “The committee is in the process of moving forward with its recommendation for the granting of roughly $3 million to support affordable housing. We'll be getting lots of money on the ground and lots of return on that investment.”