Missoula County asks state commerce to change funding model for housing stabilization
Martin Kidston/Missoula Current
This story has been updated to reflect Hedi West's current employer.
Missoula County backed a request from local housing advocates on Thursday and submitted a letter to the Montana Department of Commerce asking it to change its policies around funding home rehabilitation projects for qualified properties.
The county discussed the issue earlier this month and heard frustrations from the Montana Human Resource Council and other housing officials regarding the state's Housing Stabilization Program and the way it's funded.
The county's letter reiterates those concerns.
“We are writing to encourage the state to award a set amount of funds to applicants, which would allow grantees to support multiple rehab projects at a time. The current model minimizes our ability to meet this significant need – especially given Montana’s short construction window,” the letter reads.
Heidi West, a Missoula City Council member and grants administrator with the county, said local advocates plan to rehabilitate a minimum of 10 homes over the next five years outside the Missoula city limits.
But program awards are only granted on a case-by-case basis and with 13 projects on the current waiting list, the state's current process creates inefficiencies given today's labor shortages, supply issues and challenges in securing contractors.
West said it would be easier to bring in a single contractor for multiple projects rather searching for a contractor for each individual project.
“It's a barrier to getting things done,” she said Thursday. “If we could do two or three at the same time, we could get a lot more accomplished.”
Funding provided for projects must be repaid by the homeowner, not up front but when the property sells at a future time. The program doesn't address cosmetic issues but rather, it keeps a home liveable.
Projects range from roofing, heating, plumbing and certain energy upgrades, such as windows.
“We encourage the Montana Department of Commerce to consider a similar model to that of the City of Missoula, in which a set amount of (grant) funds is allocated to a specific grantee for a five-year period. This would allow Missoula and other counties to support as many rehab projects at a time as our capacity would allow,” the county is asking the state.