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Auditors ding state housing board for not prioritizing low-income developments

Graphic: Montana news from Montana Public Radio

State auditors found the Montana Board of Housing is out of step with best practices for funding low income developments. But the board defends its choice to spread money evenly around the state.

Auditors say the Board of Housing lacks transparency and structure in the way it awards federal tax credits for low income and rent-restricted developments. Amber Robbins is a researcher with the Legislative Audit Division.

“In Montana, staff check that projects meet certain minimum requirements but the award decisions are left entirely to the board. There’s no structured evaluation of projects against set criteria in the final decision making,” Robbins said.

Robbins said Montana has a deficit of around 17,000 low income rentals.

The audit found the board makes decisions based on a desire to spread limited credits evenly around the state. Auditors said that approach doesn’t consistently serve the lowest-income Montanans or areas of greatest need.

Executive Director Cheryl Cohen defended the board’s methodology.

“We believe our current approach is resulting in meeting the needs for a broad group of stakeholders, both urban and rural,” Cohen said.

Auditor’s recommend the board provide more training to members and adopt a standardized, data centric approach to awarding the credits. Cohen said the board would consider the auditors’ recommendations.

John joined the Montana Public Radio team in August 2022. Born and raised in Helena, he graduated from the University of Montana’s School of Media Arts and created the Montana history podcast Land Grab. John can be contacted at
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