HELENA — Taking on a mortgage during can be hard for many Montanans under the best circumstances, let alone during the economic uncertainty of a pandemic.
The State of Montana has several housing assistance programs that can help people get a home, or ensure that they are able to stay in their current one.
On Monday evening, five families were given the keys to their new homes from the Helena Area Habitat for Humanity.
These homes aren’t handouts. Over the past year, the families built the homes themselves with the help of Habitat staff and numerous volunteers. They also had to finance the material and remaining building costs of the home.
New homeowner Shelby Saarinen was only able to achieve that goal through the help of a low-interest mortgage from the Montana Board of Housing.
“Did I think I’d be living in a brand new home? Definitely not,” explained Saarinen. “Honestly I expected to rent for quite a while and save, and hope for a newer mobile home. So this is kind of beyond what I had envisioned.”
Montana Housing, a part of the Department of Commerce, assists families with buying a home, down payment assistance, mortgage servicing, rental housing assistance and more.
“It’s an amazing thing to be able to work in affordable housing and provide assistance to families like these,” said Division Administrator Cheryl Cohen. “We try to make it as least restrictive as possible and really keep the barriers low so that home ownership can be achievable.”
There are income and purchasing limits on the programs. Many Montanans qualify although they may not realize it.
Cohen says people should ask their participating lender when looking for a home to see if they qualify.
The State is also working to help rent and mortgage payment a lot more stressful for many Montana families.
The COVID Relief Emergency Housing Assistance Program can provide rent, security deposit, mortgage payment, and/or hazard insurance assistance as-needed for Montanans who have lost a job or substantial income loss as a result of COVID-19.
So far the program paid out more than $700,000 to help families, and with $50 million in available funding Cohen strongly encourages people to apply.
“The goal is to provide these funds so folks can stay in their homes and not have to experience financial crisis due to the COVID emergency,” Cohen said. “Homeowners that are participating in a forbearance program are eligible to apply and the assistance for this program to help you become current so you don’t have to tack those payments on to the end of your loan. You can just stay current and not worry about that debt later.”
Rocky Mountain Development Council will also begin taking applications for their new Red Alder Residences at 8:00 a.m. Wednesday July 15 online and at the Neighborhood Center.