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, the apartments will feel bright and spacious. [...]

May 18, 2022|

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 the right time to start looking. Only to be disappointed. I remember [...]

November 19, 2021|

Smart Homebuying Choices Begin With Good Homebuyer Education

2020 and 2021 have been challenging years in many ways. While hope and optimism surround the trajectory of COVID-19, rapidly increasing housing costs is an issue with no immediate solution. The available supply of homes to buy or rent has decreased while the median price to purchase or rent has increased substantially. Because there is no predictable end to this shift, now is the time to become financially prepared. With the competitive nature of the homebuying market, little things make a difference, especially for first-time buyers. Over the past years, I have worked with many clients who have completed Homeword’s Get Ready for HomeOwnership class. Universally, these clients enter the process more prepared and educated than the average first-time buyer. Buying a home today often requires fast decisions about what is likely to be one of the most substantial financial transactions in a person’s life. Homeword-educated buyers come to the table with a much better idea of what to expect, what documents to have on hand and how to understand the information they are being given. They are confident making these big decisions quickly and decisively. Preparation makes a difference. I volunteer as an educator with Homeword because I have seen, time and again, that education matters. If you are a first-time buyer, take the class. It might be the difference between getting under contract and not. It will help you make informed decisions – information is power. For the folks who aren’t ready to buy today and just don’t know [...]

April 30, 2021|

Empowering Montanans in 2021

The importance of financial stability and security of a home one can afford has always been essential to the strength of our communities. The pandemic underpinned that with intensity. Never has it been more clear that, for the health and strength of our communities, Montanans must be able to afford their homes and make wise financial decisions. You allow us to offer hope and help so Montanans can create brighter futures for themselves, their families and their communities. Thank you! The pandemic accelerated social and economic trends that were already underway. One result is the dramatic shift in our real estate markets across Montana. Rentals and homes for sale are becoming more competitive and costly. Homes they can afford are getting further out of reach for everyday working Montanans. Fortunately, with your help our programs expanded in the past year, becoming virtual during the pandemic. Financial Skill Building class participants are not only in Missoula, but in 33 communities across the state! Nearly 50 people per month take our online Homebuyer Education class. Graduates of our homebuyer program have purchased their first homes in the past year. They’ve worked through many challenges, sticking with their plans over longer periods of time, and have been successful. Your support empowered over 1,200 people last year through our virtual HomeOwnership Center programs to build their financial skills, advocate for their rental situations and determine their ability to purchase homes of their own. Graduates of our Financial Skill Building program told us that they were [...]

March 16, 2021|

Reflection and Giving Thanks

Reflection and Giving Thanks As we approach the holiday season, we do so with hope and appreciation for all we have in our lives. Homeword has traditionally reflected on the Thanksgiving holiday as a time to demonstrate our gratitude for the support from the greater community that makes our work possible. We recognize what Montanans have accomplished by accessing homes they can afford and through education they’ve obtained so they can navigate their financial choices. This year we created our annual Thanksgiving Cards, telling the heartwarming story of how Becky found her home and what it means to her and her family. Then a friend shared with us that they are distancing themselves from the traditional Thanksgiving holiday because of its roots in the oppression of Native Americans. This caused us to pause and to reflect on our actions and our intentions. We acknowledge that celebration of Thanksgiving can be hurtful to Indigenous people. Unlearning what we’ve known from the time we were kindergarteners and relearning about historic events of violence and oppression against Native Americans invites us to recognize the truth about intergenerational trauma that impacts tribal communities and Indigenous people today. What do we do with this disturbing historical record? We can’t change the past. But we can help shape our shared future by learning, listening and striving to be part of a collective healing. I started writing this blog from the comfort of my kitchen when it was 15 degrees outside. Some of our neighbors slept on that [...]

November 25, 2020|

Financial Resilience – Increase Your Cash

Financial Resilience - Increase Your Cash Katie Sadowski, our Financial Educator, compiled these tips to help you increase your cash and boost your financial resilience. Sell something - Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist or consignment stores are all good local options. Look around to see if there are any household items you don’t use anymore. Return recent purchases - Consider those needs versus wants, and if you made any recent purchases that you don’t need consider returning. Cut living expenses - Track spending and cut down Think about getting a trusted roommate if possible No income requirements to use the Missoula Food Bank Ask for an employer advance - You don’t know what is possible till you ask! Apply for a credit card - Having a credit card for emergencies is better than an unacceptable high interest pay day loan (can be up to 600% APR). See if you qualify for a credit card if you don’t already have one. Explore options with no or low fees and keep your balance below 30% so you don’t negatively impact your credit. Shop Credit Cards by category. Look for a second job - Especially right now, some folks are dealing with job suspension due to restaurant and bar closures. Check out your local grocery stores as many of them are dealing with a huge influx of customers and need support. Also, contact your local temp agency to see if anyone is hiring. File your tax return. Montana property tax assistance helps homeowners on a fixed [...]

May 26, 2020|
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