Housing Authority applies for grant to build homeless housing

By Martin Kidston/Missoula Current

The Missoula Housing Authority is vying for a share of a $3 million grant aimed at building affordable housing, putting a small dent in an otherwise complicated problem.

The funding, provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and managed by the Montana Department of Commerce, netted five applications of intent to apply from five communities across the state, including Missoula.

According to the application, the Missoula Housing Authority is looking to build a 12-unit affordable housing project for the homeless, including those who need permanent supportive housing but are not eligible for other programs.

“Their proposal had a focus on serving the homeless population,” said Emily Ritter Saunders, communications director of the Department of Commerce. “Once they submit their final application, we’ll review those and make the final grant announcement later this spring.”

The Missoula Housing Authority is eyeing two potential properties, including one off Mullan Road and another on Russell Street, citing their central locations and proximity to other services.

Dubbed Cornerstone Apartments, the project is contingent upon the successful receipt of the Housing Trust Fund grant. The application has the support of the Missoula Office on Housing and Community Development.

“We supported their application and are really excited to see it progress,” said Erin Fowler Pehan, director of the city’s housing office. “The housing authority is an incredibly important partner in addressing affordable housing in Missoula, particularly for those families and individuals that are at the lower incomes in our community.”

Last year, the city saw residential permits reach a record high, topping out at 775 units. That included 114 units at Halling Farms and 36 units at the 4100 Condos. The 26-unit Sweetgrass Commons project opened recently as the city’s newest affordable housing project.

Despite the landmark year, however, Pehan said the city has a long way to go to put a dent in its housing needs, particularly affordable housing and units reserved for those at the lower end of the income spectrum.

“We’ll be identifying benchmarks we want to work for as a community,” Pehan said. “We’re looking at a dramatic need to increase supply in housing specific for all needs. Adding 12 units for those earning the lowest income levels in Missoula would be incredibly impactful.”

The Missoula Housing Authority’s portfolio includes 178 public housing units, 338 tax-credit units and 774 units for Section 8 vouchers. It also includes 112 Shelter Plus Care subsidies, 17 units for homeless veterans, 14 units for homeless individuals, and 115 units of affordable housing available to various income groups.

Cornerstone Apartments would provide housing to those who make less than 30 percent of the Area Median Income.

“The Housing Authority has been a great partner in serving people who need ongoing subsidies to afford housing,” Pehan said. “They have an excellent track record at developing these project’s efficiently and affordably.”

The communities of Havre, Lewistown, Livingston and Wolf Point have also applied for the grant.

Without the aid of the grant, the Housing Authority said the project may not be achievable.

“Housing Trust Funds are essential for the success of this development,” the housing authority said. “The high cost of construction in Missoula and the low Section 8 voucher rents of this project would make it impossible to develop and cash flow this project.”


Contact reporter Martin Kidston at info@missoulacurrent.com