The O.P. and W.E. Edwards Foundation awarded NeighborWorks Montana a grant to study the feasibility of establishing a centrally administered, statewide, Montana Community Land Trust (CLT) which would serve rural communities currently outside the established service areas of the existing CLT organizations in Montana. Part of the feasibility study, conducted by the North Missoula Community Development Corporation in 2010, included a survey asking housing professionals across the state about their familiarity with the land trust concept and about their interest in learning more. The survey asked general questions about housing and land use needs in their part of the state.
The Need for Accessible Land for Housing and Farms in Montana
Some of the most compelling evidence of a serious housing affordability crisis came out of the 2010 statewide feasibility study: Among both rural and urban communities in Montana, 69 percent of respondents ranked unmet affordable housing needs as “extreme” or “large”. Young families with kids were reported to be the most in need of affordable housing. An astonishing 71 percent of employers reported difficulty in finding workers due to a lack of affordable housing nearby.
Since the feasibility study was authored, Trust Montana has grown into its own 501(c)3 organization. Trust Montana is now a community land trust and coalition of land stewards chartered to operate statewide, and is working on crafting affordable housing solutions with community leaders in Red Lodge, Belgrade, Madison County, and Great Falls. In addition to utilizing the CLT model for housing affordability, Trust Montana is working with the Community Food and Agriculture Coalition’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program grant through the USDA to formulate the farmland CLT program for Montana farmers in need of land.