Reintroducing the Workforce Housing Initiative in Red Lodge

By: 
Alastair Baker
News Editor

Courtesy RLACF- Plans for the first Community Land Trust build on Cooper Ave.

Courtesy photo- Reviewing design options for the house on Cooper Ave., is (above) Workforce Housing Initiative committee members Kim Haman and Molly Kidder and (below) Val Smith, Workforce Housing Coordinator, and Jay Deeney of Pierce Homes, Billings.

Red Lodge, as a small rural resort town, has had a work force housing problem for several years. Essential support people such as teachers, nurses, service sector employees have had difficulty affording rentals or even owning property in the community. To overcome this ever-growing situation, a Workforce Housing Committee (WHC) was formed the fall of 2015 while the Red Lodge City Council has designated affordable housing its top planning priority. 

It’s been a long road, over the past two and a half years, but now the WHC is ready to unveil its plans with a series of events designed to help the public identify and understand various options. The first event on April 19 is a Workforce Housing Forum hosted by the Beartooth Front Community Forum, followed by Resource Fairs, which will provide additional information on services, tools and resources available. Additionally, a First Time Homebuyer Class, pre-purchase, budget and credit counseling will be available to educate and better prepare potential homebuyers. Dates and details will be provided in future articles.

One of the main tools for maintaining affordable housing is placing lots into a community land trust (CLT) so that the land value doesn't increase beyond the affordability of the work force. Today, there are nearly 250 community land trusts across the United States. JoAnn Eder, WHC member, recalls seeing other communities successfully using the Community Land Trust model as a way to develop affordable housing. Together with Shelia Rice at Neighbor Works, Eder set the ball rolling. Trust Montana was formed as the first statewide land trust and Red Lodge is the first rural community using Trust Montana’s model. Recent State legislature passed HB 200 that included CLTs as an acceptable form of ownership. 

 The statewide nonprofit, Trust Montana, holds these CLTs from communities throughout the state.  Red Lodge has one lot in Trust Montana and is developing its second CLT lot now. When new owners purchase one of these homes, they only purchase the “improvements” or the house.  The land under the house is owned by Trust Montana.  This reduces the cost of the house or acts as a subsidy, one that is carried over to future owners.  The owners pay a small rental fee to Trust Montana for the land to cover administration and possible taxes. 

“It is the same idea as building on forest service land. The owner of the home does not own the land underneath,” said Eder. 

“It’s been a learning experience,” said Molly Kidder, Branch Manager at AFCU. “Working with a Land Trust is fairly new to banking but what an asset we are bringing to Red Lodge.” 

 “The Land Trust allows the person who buys the house to get some appreciation of value, not as much as if it was on the open market because we’ve subsided them from the start,” said Marcella Manuel, realtor with Coldwell Banker The Broker. “You can’t emphasize how important homeownership is to long-term success in life. It’s the greatest thing you can offer to anyone.” 

“The longer someone is in the home they get a bigger appreciation,” said Kidder. “There are some excellent programs available to help them get down payment assistance.” said Kidder. “For example, if the buyer receives $30,000 for down payment assistance, and the property sells, that fund is replenished and is available to another homebuyer.” 

“You ask, what is the benefit to the homebuyer of purchasing a house using a community land trust? Prior to purchasing, they were renting, giving the money out to someone else. There is long-term security of home ownership; the right to will your home to spouse or partner; ability to accumulate earned and market equity. It’s also a stepping-stone to build equity towards your next home. It is so important to educate and show what’s in it for them,” said Valentine Smith, Workforce Housing Coordinator.

The first build using the CLT model (a 1478 sq ft. 3 bedroom, 2 bath modular home) will break ground in May on Cooper Avenue and is slated to be ready by mid-June (weather permitting). The WHC is even getting the high school students involved, having the shop class build a shed on a lot. “It’s teaching the kids they too are a part of community and the value of home ownership,” said Smith.

The criteria for applying for this home is this has to be the primary home and not for retirement or a second home or investors. The applicants must be working in Red Lodge, and have to meet the income qualifications, which is 80%- 120% of Area Median Income. As an example, this translated to $48,750- $73,125 for a family of three.  Items such as credit worthiness, steady employments, and down payment assistance eligibility will be covered by the lender. 

As a ‘Phase II’ the WFC will address building additional housing and rental units and will prioritize future projects.

“It’s been a collaborative effort with representatives from the lenders, realtors, insurance, City, State and highly engaged volunteers, working together towards a common solution,” said Smith. Core committee members include: Diane Dimich, City Council member; JoAnn Eder, Board member RLACF & Trust Montana; Kim Haman, First Interstate Bank; Jane Jones, Bank of Red Lodge; Molly Kidder, Altana Federal Credit Union; Marcella Manuel, Caldwell Banker; Dixie McCampbell, representing Habitat for Humanity; Jody Ronning, Hub International Insurance; Pat Thompson retired Senior Director, National Development Council; and many additional ad hoc members including Kristen Hollum, former program director RLACF; Steve Hanson, attorney & RLACF Board member; James Caniglia, Red Lodge City Planner; Sandy Connolly, President of Red Lodge Planning Board; Gus Bynum, Dept. of Commerce. 

The Work Force Housing Committee is always looking for community members to join them. There are three main committees; Finance Committee, Outreach and Marketing Committee, and an Application Process Sub Committee that irons out all the details of agreements. Call Val Smith Workforce Housing Coordinator at (406) 446-2820 or  valentine@rlacf.org for more information.  

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Upcoming Events

  • Monday, November 19, 2018 - 7:00pm
    Joliet Group meets at the Community Center Monday at 7 p.m.
  • Tuesday, November 20, 2018 - 7:00pm
    Now Group meets at the Bridger United Methodist Church, 222 W. Broadway (west entrance of church) Tuesday at 7 p.m.
  • Thursday, November 22, 2018 - 7:00pm
    Meets every Thursday, 7 p.m. – 8 p.m. at the Red Lodge Area Community Foundation, 122 S. Hauser. It is open to all. 425- 1755.
  • Thursday, November 22, 2018 - 7:00pm
    Clarks Fork Group meets at St. Joseph’s Catholic Hall, north end of Montana Avenue, Thursday at 7 p.m.
  • Monday, November 26, 2018 - 7:00pm
    Joliet Group meets at the Community Center Monday at 7 p.m.
  • Tuesday, November 27, 2018 - 7:00pm
    Now Group meets at the Bridger United Methodist Church, 222 W. Broadway (west entrance of church) Tuesday at 7 p.m.

The Carbon County News

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