HELENA — The issue of housing availability has been on many Montanans’ minds over the last year. Those who work on housing in the state say availability and affordability didn’t just become problems in 2020, but they are definitely becoming more widespread.
“It’s been on the rise for a while,” said Katie Biggs, marketing and resource development manager for NeighborWorks Montana. “You’ve seen it over the past years in areas like Missoula and Bozeman specifically, and Kalispell, but where we hadn’t seen it before, we’re now seeing it. We’re seeing affordability and inventory issues in Great Falls, in Helena, in Butte.”
Biggs said the last year brought a squeeze on housing, with so many people migrating to Montana. However, it also brought several programs to help those seeking housing, like emergency rental assistance. Many of those support programs were funded through COVID-19 relief money.
These and other topics will be up for discussion next week, at the annual Montana Housing Partnership Conference, organized by NeighborWorks and Montana Housing. For the second year in a row, the event will be held virtually due to COVID.
More than 400 people from across the state are registered to take part in the conference, which is aimed toward housing authorities, developers and other professionals. The goal is to bring the various organizations together to talk about options.
“We hope folks have new tips, tools and tricks and innovative ideas to take back to their individual communities so that they can further help provide and create opportunities for homes that Montanans can afford,” Biggs said.
According to a report from the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, fair market rent for a one-bedroom home in Montana has risen to $682. That means a minimum-wage worker would have to spend well over the recommended 30% of their income on housing. The report shows Lewis and Clark County is one of the most expensive areas in the state, with a fair market rent of $782.
Biggs said addressing housing needs in Montana takes partnerships, and those partnerships are going to continue well after this conference.
“There’s absolutely a big need, but there’s always been a need for this work, and now so more than ever,” she said.
The Housing Partnership Conference will be held Tuesday, May 18, and Wednesday, May 19. You can find more information here.