Missoula County to provide $90K in down payment assistance for Habitat housing

Citing the power of partnerships on the affordable housing front, Missoula County has agreed to allocate up to $90,000 in homebuyer assistance to the Habitat Homebuyer project underway in East Missoula.

The funding stems from the county’s Trust Montana Homebuyer Choice Program.

“We have program income from a 1992 HOME grant we have put toward a project with Trust Montana,” said Erin Kautz, a grants planner with the county. “Habitat is working on this project in East Missoula to build homes, and they’re partnering with Trust Montana to make them permanently affordable as part of a community land trust.”

The community land-trust model has emerged as one tool to help address Missoula’s challenges around affordable housing. The model allows qualified buyers to own their own home while a trust owns the property.

Lee Gordon Place on Front Street in the downtown district is among the latest land trust models in Missoula. Last month, the City of Missoula also inked a deal with a developer on 9 acres off Scott Street, three of which will be held in a land trust and accommodate 70 affordable homes.

The partnership between Trust Montana and Habitat for Humanity will use a similar model.

“By using the community land trust model, this partnership will provide long-term affordability for qualified homebuyers in the county,” commissioners wrote in a letter of support for the project. “This project provides a way to combine resources for the greater good and leverage funds for maximum assistance.”

The city adopted its first housing policy two years ago, and Missoula County is working on a policy of its own. The funds allocated last week will provide up to $10,000 to nine low- and moderate-income homebuyers, helping them make a down payment on a home.

Habitat for Humanity last December announced its plans to build 30 new homes by 2030, though it will need to secure additional funding to achieve that goal.

Heather Harp, the organization’s executive director, said the government sector can’t fix the affordable housing crisis alone, and that nonprofits must be part of the solution. 

“We will take a concerted effort across all sectors to build more homes that are affordable for folks,” said Harp. “We know we can build homes for $150,000, enabling our neighbors earning $15 an hour a chance at home ownership that remains at 30% of their income.”

Habitat for Humanity set to build 30 new Missoula homes by 2030