Community land trusts work well in both rural and urban areas, but most small communities don’t have the resources necessary to operate and sustain a CLT organization. That’s where Trust Montana comes in.
Community land trusts have been operating with great success in Missoula and Kalispell for years, and the idea of establishing CLTs to serve other parts of the state is not new.
In 2010, the O.P. and W.E. Edwards Foundation awarded Neighborworks Montana a grant to study the feasibility of establishing a centrally-administered, statewide Montana CLT to serve rural areas outside the service areas of existing CLT organizations. The feasibility study was conducted by the North Missoula Community Development Corporation, the oldest CLT organization in the state, and revealed a high level of interest in, and need for, a statewide CLT. Trust Montana was founded in 2011.
The Need for Attainable Housing in Montana
Compelling evidence of a serious housing affordability crisis came out of the 2010 study. Sixty-nine percent of all Montana respondents, whether they lived in a city or a tiny town, 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. Based on subsequent studies (BBER) and on conversations between staff and local residents from Billings to Two Dot to Big Sky, these problems have persisted in the past decade due to the growing disparity between wages and the cost of land and housing in our state. Montanans, with an average household income of just under $70,000, are competing with out-of-state buyers with higher wages when they go shopping for a home, farm, or commercial building.
Trust Montana is addressing this issue by increasing the number of permanently affordable homes in the state. We partner with local organizations and community members to ensure our projects are community-led. Our partners include community foundations, Habitat for Humanity affiliates, and affordable housing developers. These partnerships allow us to offer permanently affordable home ownership opportunities in towns that lack an organization with the capacity to serve as long-term stewards. By preserving the subsidy in land and housing in communities that are already strapped for cash, Trust Montana aims to help communities of all sizes hold onto their assets and build up a stock of homes, farms and ranches working people can truly afford.
Currently, Trust Montana is working on crafting affordable housing solutions with community leaders and housing advocates in Red Lodge, Livingston, Missoula, Belgrade, and Helena. In addition to utilizing the CLT model to increase housing affordability, Trust Montana is partnered with the Community Food and Agriculture Coalition on their Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program grant through the USDA. Trust Montana is developing a CLT model for agricultural lands that can be replicated throughout the state and will help increase affordable access to land for Montana farmers and ranchers.