Finding affordable housing in Billings is most difficult for families who have the least money.
We call attention to the 1,300 Billings area families whose income is half — or less — of the average local income who are on waiting lists for Section 8 federally-subsidized private rental housing or for units operated by the Housing Authority of Billings. These are families who will be waiting up to 18 months under the current system before they can hope to get help with their housing expenses. Among them are 127 elderly and disabled individuals were on a waiting list for a 102-unit apartment complex owned by the Housing Authority.
|housing statistics 274 — Number of housing units
owned by the Housing Authority of Billings
45 percent — Annual tenant turnover in Housing Authority units.
900 — Number of families receiving for Section 8 rental assistance in Billings.
1,100 — Number of families on Section 8 waiting list.
$14,200 — Maximum annual income for most Billings families of four who qualify for Section 8 rental assistance.
the Housing Authority and the state of Montana received word of increased federal funding that will add 80 to 90 families to the Section 8 program in Billings. (The service area is the city and 10 miles beyond the city limits.)
Thats good news, but what about the other 1,210 families? While they wait, they are paying more than half of their income for rent, according to Lucy Brown, executive director of the Housing Authority. Or they may be living with relatives or living in substandard housing.
Huge as this waiting list is, Brown says it used to be longer. In the past several years, private developers taking advantage of tax incentives have constructed hundreds of low to moderate income apartments in this city. As a result, most of the Billings families who can get Section 8 vouchers, can find a place to live.Looking for grants Brown agrees that the city could use some more Section 8 money. But she also says it is important for the federal government to continue existing contracts with private landlords now providing about 700 low-income housing units in Billings. The Housing Authority and other local organizations are pursuing grants for building additional housing that would ease the housing crunch. The Housing Authority also operates programs to help clients become self-sufficient by working toward home ownership.
We call on city, county and state leaders as well as Montanas congressional delegation to work toward meeting Montanas housing needs. When people dont have a safe, affordable place to live, all other problems become much more difficult to solve. We must work to prevent homelessness by increasing the availability of affordable housing. We must shrink that 1,300-family list and the 18-month wait.