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Missoula set to begin new funding round from Affordable Housing Trust Fund

While the city continues its study on short-term rentals in the Missoula market, it’s also gearing up for the first round of funding from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

The unified funding round opened last month and applications are due next month. What’s received may go far in revealing what sort of projects are on the table to address affordable housing in the city.

Emily Harris-Shears, administrator of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, said roughly $1.04 million is available from the fund’s first funding round while $1.08 million is available in Community Development Block Grants. The HOME program has around $308,000.

“We are using one standard application form, and if applicants are applying for more than one funding source, they only need to fill out one application,” said Harris-Shears. “We hope that will streamline and make the application process more enjoyable.”

The city established its Affordable Housing Trust Fund in 2020, and last year it made its first allocation during the innovation round. That was designed as a test run and will make this year’s allocations better, said Harris-Shears.

A scoring committee of eight members will review applications based on a range of criteria. This time, however, they’ll change the way bonus points are awarded on an all-or-nothing basis. That includes a displacement bonus and an innovation bonus.

“Innovation bonus points are available to projects that are testing new approaches that are trying new housing types or providing a diversity of housing options, or if the project clearly aligns with other city housing goals,” said Harris-Shears.

While the unified funding round opened last month, applications aren’t due until Feb. 22 and contracts won’t begin until July. The gap concerned some members of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund Resident Oversight Committee.

“It may turn out to not be a problem,” said committee member Paul Henderson. “But I do wonder if that will really help make projects happen, or if this will be a funding source for projects that were already going to go along.”

Advocates of the gap said HUD contracts don’t begin until July anyway, and the Missoula City Council won’t receive the list of recommended projects until May. Contracts will take another month to complete.

“You don’t want to rush the review process,” said committee member Will Sebern. “You want to do your due diligence, make sure they’re viable projects and understand the impact they’ll have. That all takes time to get through.”