The Montana Department of Commerce recently awarded three grants totaling $2.4 million to support affordable housing projects in Bozeman and Havre. It’s part of a federal program that’s funded more than $6 million worth of projects in Montana this year.
The grants will support the rehabilitation and preservation of 41 affordable apartment units in Bozeman and 92 in Havre. The housing units are available to residents making 30 percent or less of the area median income (i.e. less than $20,000 a year).
Jennifer Olson is the administrator of the community development division at the Montana Department of Commerce, which oversees The Housing Trust Fund grant applications.
"Before the pandemic occurred, we were already seeing that we had an affordable housing crisis. We need more housing stock, particularly for rentals, and I think post pandemic we will see that still exist as a need and probably will increase as a need,” Olson says.
Earlier this year, the state’s commerce department awarded four Housing Trust Fund grants worth more than $4 million to developers working in Billings, Great Falls, Helena and Missoula. The grants funded the replacement of elevators on properties where seniors and people with disabilities live, the construction of new rental homes and the rehabilitation of apartment units.
The Housing Trust Fund is a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development program, which aims to increase the supply of safe and affordable homes for lower income households.
HUD typically sends a $3 million block grant to the Montana Department of Commerce each year for Housing Trust Fund projects. Any leftover money goes into a state fund for future projects.
Olson says The Housing Trust Fund is just one item on the menu of available state and federal funding to support affordable housing in Montana, including rental and downpayment assistance, Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, the Community Development Block Program and HOME Investment Partnerships Program, which recently awarded $2.5 million to preserve and build new affordable homes in five Montana communities.
Year to year housing prices across the state increased by about 10 percent, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency. That puts recent Montana home price growth at the sixth fastest in the nation.