City of Helena opens applications for Affordable Housing Trust Fund

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Posted at 4:57 PM, Oct 17, 2022

HELENA — The Affordable Housing Trust Fund, the first of its kind for the city of Helena, is open and ready for applicants.

“So, this trust fund is going to provide really critical gap financing that'll help organizations in our community that are either providing or supporting affordable housing,” says Housing Coordinator for the City of Helena, Kara Snyder.

The idea to create the trust fund was prompted in part by a housing needs assessment done back in 2018. The Trust Fund is a means of getting money to those who are completing projects that are working to bring affordable housing to folks within the Helena city limits. These types of projects could include housing like apartments or new single-family homes.

“There's just no funding for people who are looking to put in these major projects. And it's only getting more expensive. Certainly, through the pandemic, we saw these just wild increases in building costs. And so, the city really felt like it was, you know, their responsibility to assist in some way,” says Snyder.

The city has modeled some elements of this trust fund after similar projects in towns such as Missoula, Ashland, Oregon, and Boulder, Colorado. Those approved will receive loans and occasionally grants from the trust fund. The money given is not meant to cover entire projects. They plan to model it on a 1 to 5 match ratio. The city will give $1 for every $5 the project has.

This trust fund will hopefully help get projects up and running that will ideally help alleviate the daunting and persistent issue of housing in Helena. According to a Washington Post article, from the first quarter of 2020 to the first quarter of 2022 Lewis and Clark County saw the 5th fastest rent growth of counties in the United States. The county has an average rent of $1,263, that’s a 37% rent increase over those 2 years.

“You know, there's all kinds of needs in our community, but housing is something that you need before you can even address anything else. And so, we really feel that it being this really critical issue, it is one way that we can contribute to the stability in our community,” says Snyder.

Applications for the fund opened up in early October and the deadline to apply is November 17th. For more details, including the application guidelines, visit the city's affordable housing trust fund web page.