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2019 Statewide Montana Housing Partnership Conference

By | News

Join us in Billings for Montana’s premier conference and networking experience. This event is custom-made for policymakers, housing authorities, community development agencies and affordable housing developers in Montana.

This year’s event is a collaboration between the Montana Housing Partnership and Mountain Plains NAHRO. The Montana Housing Partnership is a group of housing professionals in business and government across the state, Mountain Plains NAHRO is the regional association of public housing authorities. We will have folks from Montana and a five-state region that includes Colorado, Utah, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Wyoming.

A full slate of national, regional and local experts will address a variety of issues that impact the availability of homes in Montana including:

  • links between infrastructure & workforce development
  • public housing authorities
  • housing choice vouchers
  • development of apartment-style rental homes
  • homeownership
  • the relationship between health & home
  • community revitalization & development
  • national and state legislative priorities
  • organizational management
  • professional development

Conference registration is now open and early bird discounts are available until May 22.

MIC Zeke Campfield

Groups Strategize Solutions to Missoula’s Housing Crisis

By | News

The Missoula Interfaith Collaborative, along with other local organizations, individual churches and nonprofits, met Tuesday night to discuss specific solutions to the city’s affordable housing crisis, including a housing trust fund, building density and strategies around barriers to renting.

The meeting follows a Voices 4 Housing February housing assembly where the public discussed the many issues Missoulians face in finding affordable housing.

A few members of the Missoula City Council and the mayor took an oath at that earlier session to find solutions and implement them as part of the city’s upcoming housing policy.

Interfaith group hopes to build momentum for affordable housing

Now, groups are finalizing specific strategies to introduce to the City Council.

Three areas of interest include creating a housing trust fund, adjusting zoning and building requirements to increase density, and providing resources to those who face rental barriers.

“When we did the small group sharing at the assembly, those were the three main concerns that came up for folks,” said Voices 4 Housing organizer Stacey Siebrasse.

That’s the point of MIC is really to garner relational power, get people connected and talking about these issues, get them informed and be able to generate the public will to stand behind these things.”The housing trust fund would pay for things like permanent affordable housing, the preservation and rehab of existing affordable units and assistance for first-time homebuyers.

The fund needs to be recurring and specifically designated for affordable housing. One way that the fund could be supported is through a bond issue, but Kaia Peterson, assistant director of NeighborWorks Montana and a member of the Missoula Housing Coalition, said that a bond could work against what a trust fund was created to achieve.

If the city were to levy a bond, Peterson explained, protections would need to be in place for people whose housing stability might be threatened by the higher property taxes necessitated by the bond itself. Other forms of funding include a local option or resort tax, gas tax, private investments, or a required percentage of tax increment funding, or TIF. In addition, commercial linkage fees charge developers of commercial developments a fee that can be used for affordable housing.

“We’re not going to advocate for a bond as the core funding source or the only funding source. We would need diverse funding sources that aren’t immediately tied to housing affordability,” she said. The group talked about adding a time-sensitive residency requirement and allowing the trust fund to span outside the city limits, which could require looking into a countywide funding measure.

Increasing housing density in Missoula is another potential strategy. Initiating a community conversation about how to increase density while balancing open space, historic preservation and transportation is important to maintaining Missoula’s character, group participants agreed.

Eliminating single-family zoning and replacing it with zoning policies that conform across all neighborhoods is another goal, while also ensuring affordability measures when building density increases. Implementing inclusionary zoning, which requires a certain percentage of new housing to be available at affordable rates, is also in the works and should be determined using a feasibility study.

“We as a community need to take a serious look at an inclusionary zoning policy and actually initiate a feasibility study on if inclusionary zoning is a right way forward for Missoula and if so, what parameters and incentives would be included in that,” said Casey Dunning, director of MIC.

Those who have been previously incarcerated or have poor rental history or credit struggle with housing, having to pay multiple application fees to compete for apartments they won’t get approved for. Having a rent guarantee fund as insurance to landlords and hiring a liaison to coordinate conversations between tenants and renters were two solutions that were widely accepted by group participants, said MIC’s housing advocate program manager Zeke Campfield.

Streamlining a single application process, including credit and background checks, would also drive down costs when applying for housing. Starting a “Gold Star Landlords” list is also a possibility.

“How do we get the landlords to do it? We can’t force them to comply and we don’t want to necessarily shame those who don’t comply. But providing a ‘Gold Star Landlord’ list, we’d be publicly lifting up those landlords which acknowledge the rent guarantee fund, the landlord liaison and accept the uniform background-credit check that comes from a centralized form,” Campfield said.

The second Voices 4 Housing assembly will take place May 2 after the city’s housing policy is published. These strategies will be introduced to the city and county for further discussion and improvements. Missoula County Commissioner Josh Slotnick and City Councilwoman Gwen Jones attended Tuesday night’s event and were impressed with the amount of civic involvement. Slotnick said the commissioners will address housing but isn’t sure what that looks like yet.

“There’s a time of year where we set budgets and we look at work plans for our departments, and we’re going to figure out how to fold affordable housing into those things,” Slotnick said.

Slotnick said funding these solutions to housing is the biggest obstacle. Passing bonds on Missoula amenities, such as the Missoula Public Library and the new park at Fort Missoula, make the city a great place to live.

However, demand for housing and increased property taxes drive up housing costs.

“We didn’t make the wrong choice by voting for those things, we’ve just accidentally created something that really no one wants, and that’s this hyper-precious, super expensive community where regular people can’t afford to live,” Slotnick said. “Nobody wants that, and we sort of have yet to come together and say, ‘This is a vision of how we really want to be, and let’s figure out how to get there.’ Groups like this are beginning to do that.”

Groups like the Missoula Interfaith Collaborative and others that meet to formulate these strategies add to the conversation, which results in a better understanding of what Missoula needs, Jones said.

“I think affordable housing is a big issue in Missoula and the more the community starts to discuss it and understand it and ponder what measures should be taken, the better off we are,” she said. “I think it’s very reflective of Missoula, and it’s a very Missoula thing to do.”

Written by Mari Hall reporting for the Missoula Current


Photo: Housing advocate program manager with MIC Zeke Campfield counts how many participants agree to “ratify” certain solutions that address rental barriers. These solutions will be presented to the city council in May for further discussion.  (photo credit: Mari Hall/Missoula Current)

Calleen Collver-Holm

Missoula Trailer Residents Face Eviction as Landowners Redevelop

By | News

BY MARI HALL – Calleen Collver-Holm has a sign on the wall of her mobile home on Strand Avenue that reads, “Someone Else Is Happy With Less Than What You Have.”

She tries to live by the motto, but her future is uncertain. So uncertain, she doesn’t know if she’ll have anything left later this year.

In December, Collver-Holm received a rezoning notice from the city of Missoula for the land beneath her mobile home. In January, the Missoula Consolidated Planning Board approved denser zoning for the 12,686-square-foot lot on Strand Avenue and Grant Street, followed by the City Council in February.

“I want to bring up the difference between community development and gentrification,” Collver-Holm told the board in January. “Community development takes into consideration your existing community, your existing population. Gentrification is to replace the existing population, and that’s essentially what’s happened all over Missoula.”

The rezoning notice listed criteria for the planning board to consider, including whether the change was in accordance with the city’s growth policy and promoted urban development. But the human impact wasn’t considered, Collver-Holm said.

“This is how we end up homeless, this is how we end up with nothing. I have my grandmother’s ring is what I’m down to, and I know grandma would understand,” she said, fighting back tears.

Three of the four mobile homes are still in use on the property. Collver-Holm has lived on the lot for almost a decade. Now, she and her neighbors face eviction to make way for a new multi-family housing development she cannot afford.

Her home is evident of long-term living and a safe space for Collver-Holm and her 5-year-old daughter. White string lights line the tops of the walls adorned with her daughters’ drawings. Colorful prayer flags hang on the fence outside.

Her dogs and cat, or what Colver-Holm calls her “critters,” are part of the family. Living in a space that is stable for mother and daughter and allows pets is important to her.

“This is the longest I’ve ever lived in one place in my entire life, ever, including my childhood,” she said.

Collver-Holm lives on a fixed income, receiving disability checks of about $1,200 per month, with some help from her ex-husband.

Before she was on disability, she worked as a certified occupancy specialist for a property manager in Portland, with parents who specialized in transitional housing. She’s had experience helping those who’ve been displaced and wants to be a voice for them.

“Sometimes, all of these broken-spirited people need is a second chance to be treated with dignity and respect,” Collver-Holm said.

As the owner of her 1972 mobile home, she would be required to purchase a new foundation, axels, tires and skirting in order to be moved safely on the road. Relocating her trailer within the city limits would be $1,800, she said.

“The one income you have absolutely, unconditionally has to go to rent and utilities. Nothing else matters and there is no such thing as extras,” she said.

The landowners, Jeremy and Betsy Milyard, declined to comment on the rezoning and redevelopment. According to a letter written by the Milyards to accompany the rezoning application, they plan to build multi-family housing on the land, at a higher density than that allowed by the previous zoning.

“The number of units and design are yet to be determined as obtaining approval for the zoning change is the first step in our planning process,” the application read. “We a(r)e currently approved for just under 6 units and would like to be able to obtain a density of 8-12 depending on what comes out of our design process.”

The new zoning supports the “focus inward” approach of the city’s growth policy to encourage development in the urban core where infrastructure already exists. With enough space for higher density and the proximity to services, the land is ideal for development, according to the executive summary of the rezoning request. The notice did not specify an eviction date.

Collver-Holm said she is still on good terms with the landowners and understands that a multi-family development would make more economic sense. They offered her an apartment once the development is built, but Collver-Holm said apartment living isn’t realistic for her due to space and cost.
This isn’t the first-time residents of a Missoula mobile home park have been displaced.
In 2014, Hansen’s Trailer Park on South Third Street West evicted its residents to make way for Missoula’s growth, and residents of Skyview Trailer Park were forced out in 2017. The Skyview property now sits vacant.

Kaia Peterson, assistant director for NeighborWorks Montana, said the demand for land in Missoula is high, with many landowners looking to develop or redevelop their property.

“I think really what we’re seeing is, as the value of land continues to rise in Missoula, the return that property owners can get on lot rents is starting to be less than what they can get for redeveloping properties to other purposes, whether commercial or multi-family or other forms of residential,” Peterson said. “Because Missoula is a geographically bound area, there’s a high demand for land.”
NeighborWorks Montana helps to preserve affordable housing across the state, including manufactured home parks and lots, using a variety of strategies. Sellers of these parks can get a state capital gains tax deduction if they sell to a nonprofit, a housing authority or a resident corporation.

The North Missoula Community Development Corporation helped residents of Skyview Trailer Park find new homes, or basic necessities, through NeighborWorks Montana, the Missoula Housing Authority, the Missoula Human Resource Council and the Missoula Food Bank. The ultimate goal, however, is to preserve this type of housing.

“I think for us, as an organization that tries to preserve this type of housing and maintain affordable housing, we’re always looking for opportunities where we still have a strong enough economic argument to be made to preserve the property as is,” she said.

Collver-Holm recently met with City Councilwoman Julie Merritt to talk about ways to help displaced residents in Missoula. Merritt recalls that when residents from Skyview Trailer Park were forced out, some became homeless while others, who were able to secure a small loan, put their trailer on a fifth wheel.

Their standards of living were reduced drastically.

“I’m hopeful that with the housing policy that they’re working on right now, that one of the aspects will be some support when people are displaced because of land use decisions,” Merritt said.
The city’s housing policy, aimed to be released in April, may have some strategies that will address manufactured home parks specifically. Implementing a housing trust fund that can provide lower-cost financing to make park deals with organizations or residents more viable is one opportunity.

The Montana Interfaith Collaborative is working with other organizations to draft solutions to the affordable housing crisis that will be introduced to the Missoula City Council, such as streamlining application processes and background checks and providing incentives to landlords who are willing to rent to tenants with poor credit or a criminal background.

Right now, there are about 110 mobile home parks with a total of 2,800 homes in Missoula, and many residents own their home outright, which makes living more affordable.

“Typically, when you’re looking at manufactured home parks, the lot rent is going to be half of what a comparable rental unit would be in any given market. In Missoula, we’re seeing lot rents of about $350 a month. Most of the people in these parks own their homes outright, so they don’t have debt,” Peterson said. “So, when these people are displaced, you can guess that the price of their housing is going to double if they don’t have some kind of subsidy.”

Collver-Holm has experienced homelessness before, having lived in a van in Missoula in 2008 before her daughter was born. Now she may be on the brink of losing her home again. The big city mentality is what made her move from Oregon to Montana, however, Missoula’s push for development concerns her.

Something needs to be done to help people like her, she said. Creating a nature-based trauma recovery and support center for survivors of rape, incest and violent crimes has been a dream of her for more than 20 years.

“When we start losing hope, we’re in trouble. A lot of us are so beat down already, just trying to survive and just fighting to exist. We’re not really living, we’re just existing,” Collver-Holm said.
While she continues to look for new housing for her family, Collver-Holm said she’ll continue to be a voice for those who find themselves in a similar situation.

“Many of the people who make the community magical are struggling from paycheck to paycheck. So when you force them out of the area, you’re also taking away the magic that came as part of that area and the reasons that it became such a desirable place to live,” Collver-Holm said. “It’s not because it had these fancy new buildings and these upper-class shops. It’s because people gave a damn about each other. At one point I had someone offer me his socks, because I didn’t have any when I was homeless. It’s a different world.”


Photo: Calleen Collver-Holm and her daughter Sofia Iliff stand in front of their home on Strand Avenue. Collver-Holm, along with her neighbors, received a notice for rezoning from the city of Missoula in December 2018. (Mari Hall/Missoula Current)

workforce housing tax credits


By | News


Our communities are stronger when everyone can afford safe and healthy homes.Community and business leaders around the state have recognized this. Throughout rural and urban Montana, the shortage of homes Montanans can afford is affecting our quality of life and our economy. Each year, the Montana Board of Housing can only fund approximately 25% of worthy multifamily rental home development applications because of lack of funds.

Great progress was made during the 2017-2018 Legislative Interim thanks to the willingness of the Local Government Interim Committee to unanimously approve legislation that would solve
some of our housing challenges.

Senate Bill 18 is one of those solutions. It would create a state workforce housing tax credit to help investors leverage and augment the Federal Housing Tax Credit (FHTC), leading to more homes across Montana that working families and seniors can afford…continue reading the full article here.

poverty blog post

Poverty with a View

By | News

Can We Make Housing Affordable in Montana?

By Bryce Ward

Buying a house in Montana can be hard. A recent Gallup study found 45 percent of Montanans were dissatisfied with the availability of good affordable housing. This tied Montana with Maryland and Oregon for eighth worst in the country.

In many Montana markets, prices are high. As shown in Table 1, prices are high relative to other parts of the country. Home prices are also high relative to the incomes typically earned by Montanans, relative to the cost of building a house, and they are also much higher than they used to be.

housing montanaTable 1. Housing costs in Montana relative to the U.S. and other Western states. Source: BBER analysis of 2016 American Community Survey (1-year).


Montana renters fare better. Rent in Montana markets tends to be lower than in other parts of the county. Montanans are less likely than the average American renter to be rent burdened (spending more than 30 percent of their income on rent). However, Montana’s median gross rents have been rising faster than across the country.

Combined, Montana’s owners and renters spend a higher percentage of their income on housing than they did 25 years ago. In 1990, Montana was one of the most affordable states, but its affordability advantages have eroded. Given these challenges some have wondered what, if anything, can be done to ensure housing in Montana is affordable?

Standard economic logic suggests increasing affordability requires slowing housing price growth, while also boosting income growth – this is difficult. Slowing housing price growth entails limiting demand (making Montana less desirable) or increasing the supply response (making it easier to build).

Thus, those seeking to improve affordability must ask two questions: 1) Can we reduce demand – can Montana become less desirable and do we want it to be less desirable? 2) Can we increase supply – can Montanans make it easier to build more housing?

Housing Demand
Places with strong demand experience either population growth or housing price growth or both. Based on these metrics demand for Montana is strong. Over the past 25 years, Montana has enjoyed both faster-than-average population growth and faster-than-average housing price growth.

Productivity and quality of life drive demand for place. Places that are very productive (i.e., places that produce lots of value per worker) tend to offer high wages and good job opportunities. As such, they tend to attract people. Similarly, places that offer an appealing quality of life also tend to attract people.

Demand growth in Montana reflects some productivity improvements, but mostly it reflects demand for Montana’s quality of life. Productivity and wages have grown relatively quickly in Montana over the past 15 years. For instance, while wages in Montana remain low, average wages have grown faster than across the country. In 2000, average weekly wages for Montana’s wage and salary workers were only 69 percent of the U.S. level. In 2016, they were 76 percent of the U.S. level. This faster than average wage growth could contribute to demand for Montana.

Demand for the quality of life, though, is likely the stronger force driving demand – many people come to Montana just for that. But this demand creates some specific challenges for the state’s economy.

Some portion of those who seek to enjoy Montana’s quality of life do not rely on the state’s economy for income. This group includes out-of-state residents who own second homes in Montana, people whose income comes from savings (e.g., capitalists or retirees) and telecommuters. While it is hard to precisely identify the size of this group in the available data, several pieces of evidence suggest this group is relatively large.

First, Montana has a larger-then-typical share of second homes and the number of second homes has grown at a relatively fast rate. In 1990, the census classified 5.8 percent of Montana homes as seasonal, recreational or occasional use. This was nearly double the U.S. share (3 percent). By 2010, the share of second homes in Montana grew to 8 percent, while the U.S. share grew to only 3.5 percent.

Second, Montana appears to have attracted a growing number of people who have the means to live wherever they choose (e.g., capitalists, retirees and telecommuters).

The Treasure State has a larger than typical share of income from non-wage sources. Twenty-three percent of Montana’s personal income comes from dividends, interest and rent. This is higher than the U.S. level (19 percent) and ranks third highest among all states. Thirty Montana counties, including Flathead, Missoula and Gallatin, rank in the top 10 percent among all U.S. counties in the share of personal income from dividends, interest and rent.

Similarly, the share of income reported to the IRS from non-wage sources is significant and has grown over time. In 1990, 31 percent of Montana’s total adjusted gross income (AGI) was from non-wage sources. By 2015, this share had grown to 36 percent. In 19 Montana counties, including both Gallatin and Missoula counties, over 40 percent of AGI comes from non-wage sources. These counties all rank in the top 10 percent of counties.

Thus, Montana’s rising housing costs, in part, reflect Montana’s desirability to people whose income is not derived from the state’s economy. While demand from these footloose individuals provides clear evidence that Montana offers a great quality of life, it also makes housing in Montana more expensive, which can create problems. It means that housing cost increases may not be tethered to wage increases. This can make Montana untenable to certain workers and firms.

In theory, Montana could try and avoid such problems by becoming less attractive – i.e., by becoming less productive or by lowering the quality of life. Neither of those outcomes are enticing. Thus, it is difficult to argue that the state should try to improve housing affordability by reducing demand, but what about supply?

Housing Supply
When strong demand for a place exists, the range of feasible outcomes is bound by two extremes. At one extreme, strong demand is met by very little increase in the number of houses. In this case, strong demand leads to big increases in housing prices, but very little population growth. At the other extreme, strong demand is met by a very large increase in the number of houses. In this case, strong demand leads to big increases in population, but very little housing price growth.

Whether demand for place translates into an increase in housing prices or an increase in population depends on the number of houses that get built. That is, for a given change in demand, the price response depends on the supply response.

Supply response varies widely across the country. Some communities are expensive (e.g., San Francisco). They have built little, experienced slow population growth, but have seen rapid home price growth. Some communities are expansive (e.g., Las Vegas). They have built a lot, experienced massive population growth, but have seen relatively little home price growth.

Communities across Montana vary in both demand growth and supply response. Table 2 shows housing price growth and housing unit growth between 2000 and 2015 for several Montana communities relative to other places. Each of the listed communities has experienced housing price growth in excess of 50 percent. This places each above the 75th percentile, which tells us that these parts of the state have all experienced strong demand.

housing montanaTable 2. Percent change in housing prices and number of housing units, 2000-2015. Sources: BBER analysis of OFHEO Housing Price Index (CBSA), 2000 Census and 2015 American Community Survey. Note: Percentile rank is among metropolitan and micropolitan areas.


The supply response has varied across Montana. The percentage change in the number of housing units in Butte and Great Falls is below average (and well below the average for places who experienced similar housing price growth). Billings, Helena and Missoula all built more than average and ranked in the 75th to 85th percentile in terms of housing unit growth; however, they built slightly less than expected given how much prices increased. Kalispell and Bozeman built an extraordinary amount. Bozeman ranks 10th and Kalispell ranks 26th in percentage change in housing units between 2000 and 2015. Both also built substantially more than average given price appreciation.

The message of these findings is disconcerting. Many places in Montana built a fair amount of housing and yet they still experienced large increases in house prices. Thus, given the level of demand, these communities needed to build more (likely much, much more) if they had wanted to keep housing prices down. The question is why didn’t they build more housing?

Places that make it easier to build have three advantages: First, they have abundant developable land (places with mountains and large bodies of water have a less responsive housing supply.) Second, they have fewer land-use regulations. Third, they have robust development sectors.

Montana cannot do anything about its natural constraints on land supply. But if we want to lower prices or slow price growth, regulatory barriers need to fall or the efficiency of the development sector needs to increase.

Unfortunately, we do not know how many houses need to be built to substantially lower prices. It is hard not to notice that the two areas that built the most housing, Bozeman and Kalispell, experienced some of the largest housing price appreciation in the country. It is worth considering whether building more housing contributed to the growth in demand.

Thus, increasing affordability in Montana may prove difficult. Some degree of unaffordability may be hard to avoid. Montanans, or at least Montanans in certain places, may need to learn to adapt to relatively unaffordable housing.

Bryce Ward is an associate director at the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana.

Neighborworks Montana


By | News

October 26, 2018 at 5:00 am – The Daily Inter Lake

The homeowners who live in Hartmanns Trailer Court in Libby have bought the community from the previous owners. The community now known as Libby Creek Community is a new resident-owned community that has formed a nonprofit cooperative corporation managed by its members.

In most manufactured-home parks, homeowners own their homes and pay a “lot rent” or “lot fee” to the park owner for the use of the land. In resident-owned communities, the lot rent goes to the cooperative and is used for the good of the community.

Housing that is affordable to working and low-income families is disappearing across Montana. Resident-owned communities preserve an important source of unsubsidized affordable housing for working families, seniors and people with low incomes. In most places in Montana, owning a home in such a community is about half as expensive as renting an apartment.

Danielle Maiden, the cooperative housing specialist for NeighborWorks Montana, was the lead staff person on this project. She grew up in Libby, graduated from Libby High School in 2004 and has a strong connection to the community.

“Libby is reinventing itself,” Maiden said. “There is a revitalization taking place and a big effort from the residents to bring new economic opportunities to the area. The resident-owned communities program naturally promotes pride in ownership and provides the resources to make capital improvements in the Libby Creek community upon purchase.”

The purchase was financed by Glacier Bank and NeighborWorks Montana. There are 12 homes in the community. The co-op members elect a board of directors to conduct the day-to-day business.

Libby Creek is the 10th resident-owned community in Montana. The resident-owned communities program helps to provide safe, secure and affordable housing in perpetuity, and it eliminates the fear of rent increases or being evicted without cause, according to NeighborWorks Montana.

Neighborworks Montana

ROC Summit In Montana Full Of Collaboration And Inspiration

By | News

Posted by Melissa Proulx on Wednesday, October 10 th, 2018
KALISPELL, Mont. – Inspired and grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with their regional peers, residents and leaders of Montana ROCs are ready to help their communities continue to thrive after the ROC Summit this past weekend.

Representatives from the 10 ROCs and 330 households came out to Kalispell for a two-day regional training hosted by NeighborWorks® Montana, the ROC USA® Network affiliate in the state.

The ROC leaders learned about their finances, working with their property manager as well as local law enforcement, and how to foster community engagement. Attendees collaborated with one another on various community engagement topics during an extensive World Cafe.

Through these sorts of trainings as well as just working hands-on with NeighborWorks Montana are a vital resource for many, some attendees said.

“It is amazing what (Buena Vista) has become,” said Terry Huetter, President of the Missoula, Mont., ROC. “It has gone in a positive direction, and just changed leaps and bounds.”

Leaders also gave a report on their communities’ biggest successes, ranging from completing infrastructure projects to rebuilding playgrounds to discovering new ways of engaging community members.

“We started a coffee klatch group where residents can join in without having to come to a meeting,” said Lori Meyer, president of Green Acres Cooperative in Kalispell.

The question of how to best get neighbors engaged was one to which ROC leaders frequently returned, particularly for some of the newer leaders who were able to use the experience of their more tenured peers.

Terry Davis and her neighbors in Country Court purchased their neighborhood in July and are gearing up to tackle some of their infrastructure needs.

“We’re still getting our feet under us as to how this all works,” she said.

Spencer Willey, Treasurer for Libby Creek Community, said he was looking forward to hearing about the experiences of the more tenured ROC leaders to bring back to his Board. His Libby, Mont., neighborhood became resident-owned on Oct. 1, the newest for the state.

“It’s fun to bring something like this to Libby for sure,” he said.

Board Presidents were given a certificate and gift card to Ace Hardware for $50 in recognition of their service to their neighborhoods.

The efforts of the Presidents, the Boards and the community residents are what help the Montana ROCs thrive.

“It really is thanks to all your work that our communities are what they are today,” said Kaia Peterson, Assistant Director at NeighborWorks Montana.

Community leaders boarded a trolley to tour all three Kalispell ROCs to learn a little bit more about their stories.

Each group was also awarded a $500 grant from NeighborWorks Montana to increase community engagement. Members brainstormed ideas of how to use the money – hosting volunteer barbeques, funding a neighborhood party or creating gift baskets for Members – that will be brought back to their Boards of Directors for approval.

Neighborworks Montana

FICO Plans Big Shift in Credit-Score Calculations, Potentially Boosting Millions of Borrowers

By | News

Consumers with a low FICO could get a higher UltraFICO, a new score that factors in bank-account activity as well as loan payments
AnnaMaria Andriotis

Updated Oct. 21, 2018 9:31 p.m. ET, Wall St. Journal

Fair Isaac Corp. FICO -1.54% , creator of the widely used FICO credit score, plans to roll out a new scoring system in early 2019 that factors in how consumers manage the cash in their checking, savings and money-market accounts. It is among the biggest shifts for credit reporting and the FICO scoring system, the bedrock of most consumer-lending decisions in the U.S. since the 1990s.

The new score, in the works for years, is FICO’s latest answer to lenders who after years of mostly cautious lending are seeking ways to boost loan approvals.

This is occurring at the same time the consumer-credit market appears relatively healthy. Unemployment is low and consumer loan balances—including for credit cards, auto loans and personal loans—are at record highs, and lenders are looking for ways to keep expanding loan volume.

Borrowers currently have little control over what is in their credit reports, save for the ability to contest information they believe is inaccurate. Lenders, collections firms and other parties feed payment-history data to the major credit-reporting firms, Experian PLC, Equifax Inc. and TransUnion, and that information determines consumers’ FICO scores.

Lenders, in turn, use FICO scores to help make most of their lending decisions.

The UltraFICO score will function as an appeal of sorts, likely boosting many applicants with less-than-ideal records. If an applicant’s traditional FICO score falls short, a lender can offer to have the score recalculated to reflect banking activity. Would-be borrowers with at least several hundred dollars in their accounts, who have had the accounts for a while and who transact frequently and don’t overdraw are likely to see their scores rise, FICO said.

Applicants will be able to choose which accounts they want considered when the score is recalculated.

FICO said it is in discussions with a handful of lenders, including banks and financial-technology firms, that have expressed interest in using the new score in a pilot. One of those is Pentagon Federal Credit Union, the third-largest U.S. credit union by assets.

A decade after the subprime-mortgage binge nearly brought down the U.S. financial system, consumer lenders remain wary of borrowers with low credit scores.

Banks have spent much of the past 10 years chasing ultra-creditworthy borrowers. Yet that slice of the market, which has grown as the economy has improved, is largely tapped out.

As a result, lenders have been asking credit-reporting firms and FICO to figure out a way to help them boost lending without taking on significantly more risk. And regulators have expressed interest in exploring ways to increase access to affordable lending for consumers who have no or low credit scores.

Of U.S. consumers with FICO credit scores, a record 58.2% have a score of 700 or higher on a scale that tops out at 850. The average FICO score is at a record 704. Lenders may have different cutoffs, but Experian considers scores under 670 subprime.

FICO said about seven million applicants who have low credit scores as a result of thin borrowing histories would likely see their scores improve under the new system. Separately, some 26 million subprime borrowers will end up with higher credit scores, FICO said, with nearly four million seeing an increase of at least 20 points.

Consumers with an average balance of at least $400 who haven’t overdrawn in the prior three months would likely get a boost, FICO said.

David Shellenberger, FICO’s senior director of scoring and predictive analytics, said the new score is designed to prevent risky borrowers from appearing more creditworthy than they are, by reflecting positive financial behavior that was previously invisible.

FICO is “very focused” on its “ability to separate future good borrowers from bad borrowers,” Mr. Shellenberger said.

Some scores could decrease when the new information is taken into account, he said.

Experian will compile consumers’ banking information with help from financial-technology firm Finicity and will distribute the new score to lenders. The credit-reporting firm also will send lenders a report that includes a summary of the consumer’s bank accounts.

Experian will keep the potentially valuable cache of sought-after account information. The company said it would use the data to address consumer disputes about accuracy. FICO won’t have access to personalized account information.

UltraFICO is the latest in a recent series of changes by credit-reporting and -scoring firms that are helping boost consumers’ credit scores.

Equifax, Experian and TransUnion last year began deleting most tax-lien and civil-judgment information from credit reports. They also have been removing certain accounts in collections, following settlements with state attorneys general dating back to 2015 over how they manage errors and certain negative information on credit reports.

Eight million consumers who had collections accounts completely removed from their credit reports in the 12 months ended in June experienced a credit-score increase of 14 points on average, according to a recent Federal Reserve Bank of New York report.

FICO updated its scores in 2014 to put less weight on medical bills that are in collections and to exclude accounts that consumers paid or settled with a collection agency.

Write to AnnaMaria Andriotis at [email protected]

Neighborworks Montana

Northwood Fundraiser

By | News

This year during Giving Tuesday, please join us in completing a very special project at our resident owned community (ROC), Northwood, in Pablo, Montana. Our goal is to raise $6,000 to complete their community center which will include electrical work, insulation, drywall, and flooring.

Why is this project so important? Resident, Mary Sherman explains, “The community center is the heart of our community. It is the place we go to build relationships, hold our community functions, and where all of the ideas for our community are created.”

In 2014, Northwood took the exciting steps to become a ROC, but what does that mean? By working with NeighborWorks Montana through the ROC USA network, the residents of Northwood were able to take control over their community by purchasing the park from the previous owner. This ownership eliminated the fear of rent increases or being evicted without cause. Resident-owned communities preserve an important source of unsubsidized affordable housing for working families, seniors and people with low incomes. In most places in Montana, owning a home in such a community is about half as expensive as renting an apartment.

This is a great group of folks who value their homes and each other. They have already done a lot of work to their park by adding a playground, speed bumps, fencing and a community garden. Now NWMT is working with them to complete this building and take steps to ensure the sustainability of their community. With your partnership, we can complete this project and give the people of Northwood the tools for a strong neighborhood.

To donate: or you can give through our Facebook page at Donations made through Facebook early on Tuesday, November 27 may be matched by Facebook & Paypal this year!

Neighborworks Montana

New Sign For Morning Star Co-Op Big Hit In Community

By | News

Posted by Melissa Proulx on Thursday, October 11 th, 2018

KALISPELL, Mont. — A new sign marks more than just the entrance of the Morning Star Community.

“It completes the community,” said Laurie Westendorf, President of the democratically elected Board of Directors for the resident-owned community.

Before the sign was installed, those looking to get to the co-op are taken to the community next door if they enter the address into the GPS. Since there isn’t any signage at the moment to let them know they are in the wrong place, it could be confusing.

“We really needed it so people could find us,” she said.

With one sign already installed, a second one was set to be installed earlier this week. New speed limit and row number signs will also be put up. Residents were able to weigh in on the design.

These changes help to create a sense of belonging for Morning Star residents by dressing up the neighborhood. It shows pride of ownership and many have given positive feedback on the new sign, Westendorf said.

The $2,000 project was funded through a grant from NeighborWorks® Montana, the ROC USA affiliate for the state. Westendorf said she learned about the possibility of getting the grant while attending the Community Leadership Institute in Los Angeles, Calif. in 2017.

“It was the very first grant that we’ve received,” she said.

This was not the only one they’ve recently received though.

Morning Star was also awarded $1,500 from the Better Together Community Grant Program earlier this summer. This money was used to fix the asphalt around their mailboxes so water will drain away from the area. This will be safer for residents, particularly in the cold months when ice can build up and make it slick in that area.

The signs were created by Signs Now, a local company in Kalispell. Westendorf said the team there did an amazing job and was incredibly helpful throughout the process.