Closing the Homeownership Gap

CLOSING THE HOMEOWNERSHIP GAP Thanks to the generosity of the Missoula Organization of Realtors (MOR), we were able to serve as co-sponsors of Missoula Pride alongside their organization this summer. Together we united under the slogan “Homes For All” and tabled at the Pride events downtown. Our homebuyer educator, Julie Pavlish, and other Homeword team members were able to reach hundreds of LGBTQ+ people among the Pride participants from around the state with information about our homebuyer education and free, statewide financial skill building classes. According to a 2021 report from the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance and Freddie Mac, the homeownership rate for the LGBTQ+ community is only 49%, whereas the overall U.S. population has a homeownership rate of 70.1%. In today’s difficult and competitive conditions, many people are waiting longer to realize their goals of purchasing homes or foregoing homebuying altogether. Reflected in the more than 20% disparity in homeownership, the LGBTQ+ community has even more challenges when it comes to renting or purchasing a home. Research conducted by Freddie Mac and the Alliance in 2022 shows a significant number of those surveyed reporting evidence of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity against potential homebuyers during the renting or homebuying process. Among their barriers to buying a house is being fearful of discrimination. The top barriers surveyed LGBTQ+ renters reported to buying a home included feeling that home prices were beyond their means, saving for a down payment, wanting more education about the buying [...]

August 11, 2022|

Self-Compassion is Key to Financial Resiliency

SELF-COMPASSION IS KEY TO FINANCIAL RESILIENCY August is Happiness Happens Month, and that has me thinking about all the ways our financial world impacts our overall happiness.   Imagine this scenario: you have been saving for months, sacrificing luxuries big and small to reach your financial goal. You know your landlord is raising rent with your lease renewal and you only have a few more months to try to save this little extra before you will need it to pay rent, then BOOM! Out of the blue you have something happen. It might be a medical emergency, a car accident or something else that uses your hard-earned savings. A hit like that is bound to hurt anyone’s morale when it comes to reaching a big financial goal.   In times like these, one of the very best tools you can use to regain happiness in your financial world is self-compassion. Psychologist Kristen Neff defines self-compassion as “extending grace to yourself using three elements: self-kindness, common humanity and mindfulness.”  The truth is, while we are in control over many factors that affect our financial landscape, there are some things we as individuals have little or no control over that can deeply impact our day-to-day financial reality.   Today we see many examples of this, such as increased home and rent prices, inflation with gas and groceries and increased medical costs. All these can leave community members feeling defeated when it comes to meeting their financial goals.    So, what [...]

July 29, 2022|

Community Solutions for Community Challenges

COMMUNITY SOLUTIONS TO COMMUNITY CHALLENGES Montana communities are stronger when everyone can afford safe, healthy homes, yet Montana rental and home listing prices are rising so rapidly it takes our breath away. Our communities are changing, and people are facing some tough challenges as a result. As the market intensifies, the demand for our work in Missoula and statewide increases as does the need for community solutions. It’s no secret the skyrocketing rental and real estate market is challenging for Montanans from all walks of life. The cost of rentals and homes for sale continues to increase at alarming rates in comparison to incomes. Local workers, seniors, veterans and families are trying to keep their homes and pay for other necessities. Businesses are striving to provide great service and retain employees on local wages. The Missoula Organization of Realtors (MOR) recently released its 2022 Five Valleys Housing Report, which we contribute to, illustrating some of those changes. MOR’s report indicates a third of the households in Missoula County spend more than 30% of their income on rents or mortgages plus utilities. Known as being cost-burdened, this means that 16,312 households in Missoula County have little left for food, transportation, health, childcare, education, debt, etc. after covering their home costs. Someone living on the average Missoula renter wage of $13.20 per hour, for example, has just $650 for everything else after paying for average rent and utilities. Our Cost of Living Activity demonstrates [...]

June 2, 2022|

Homeword Launches Construction on 138 New Homes in Kalispell

HOMEWORD LAUNCHES CONSTRUCTION ON 138 NEW HOMES IN KALISPELL Construction is just beginning on Junegrass Place, the ninth project on which we've partnered with GMD Development. Located in the heart of Kalispell, it will provide 138 rental homes people can afford. Households earning 60% or less of the area median income will be eligible to lease these apartments. A household of three people can earn up to $42,900 annual gross income and qualify to live at Junegrass. Junegrass will provide a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartment homes. It will have seven three-story walk-up garden-style apartment buildings. All the homes have either a private deck or patio. Each home will have a washer and dryer or washer/dryer hook-ups and dishwashers. Parking is provided on site, along with bicycle parking areas at each building. The community building will have a large community room available for residents to use for larger gatherings or parties and there will be a play area adjacent to the building. Junegrass’ common area utilities will be supported by a solar photovoltaic and solar hot water systems. Sheltered landscaped areas between buildings will provide quiet small spaces for gathering or enjoying the outdoors. A large undeveloped hillside area below the highway will provide natural spaces for residents to explore. Traditionally, Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) developments have used either 9% credits or 4% tax credits for funding, not both. This was because the tax-exempt bonds that come with 4% credits are prohibited from being used [...]

May 26, 2022|

Construction Begins on Crowley Flats

CONSTRUCTION BEGINS ON CROWLEY FLATS The Ownership Partnership and Construction Loan for Crowley Flats in Lewistown, Montana, has closed, and we can finally begin the construction involved in this historic adaptive re-use project. Located on the on the upper two floors of the Crowley Block in historic downtown Lewistown, Crowley Flats will provide 16 rental homes to households earning 60% or less of the area median income. In 2022, for Lewistown residents, that means a household of one person working full-time could earn about $16 per hour or less to qualify for the homes. That's a gross annual income of $33,360. If the homes were leasing today, rents would range from $491 to $970, not including electric utilities, depending on the size of the apartment and the income target assigned to the apartment. There is no rental assistance, but residents with Housing Choice (Section 8) vouchers will be welcome. Both rents and income change annually and could be more or less by the time the homes are being leased. Construction is expected to take 10 to 12 months, and leasing activities are expected to begin in early 2023. The apartment homes are on the small side, ranging from 498 square  feet for studios to 935 two-bedroom homes, but are suitable for downtown living. There is a mix of studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments with high ceilings and lots of natural light. With large windows on the exterior walls and interior windows sharing light from the skylights in the atrium, [...]

May 18, 2022|

Can I Still Buy a Home During a Housing Crisis?

CAN I STILL BUY A HOME DURING A HOUSING CRISIS? You’ve heard it, I’ve heard it and it seems like everyone from your barista to the mayor is talking about it. Missoula is in the middle of a housing affordability crisis. While we braced for the market to tighten even more as we realized that the COVID-19 pandemic was not going to end with the first lock down of 2020, I don’t believe anyone was predicting the way in which the crisis would evolve into an emergency and severely affect the homebuying market for many in Missoula. The warning bells had started to sound near the end of 2019 when the year over year growth for median home price had risen 8.6%, the largest increase at that time in over a decade. It wasn’t until mid-2020 that the full impact of the pandemic economy would start to emerge. Today, Missoula County has seen homes values up over 32%, rental vacancy rates are down to 0.38% and average rent in Missoula in early 2019 was $862 — it is now $1,111. As Homeword’s Homebuyer Educator, I started hearing through the grapevine about many multiple offer situations, cash buyers, sight unseen purchases and bidding wars. I knew we were heading into new territory for many would-be Missoula buyers. At the same time, we had the compounding forces of record-low interest rates and, for some, an infusion of cash while they maintained employment. Nationally, saving rates jumped and, for many, it was [...]

November 19, 2021|
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