When people think of affordable housing in the United States they often think of subsidies, vouchers and large, multi-family housing complexes.
Housing in rural Montana
In rural areas, like Montana, these things are all present, but manufactured housing tends to play the largest part in sheltering low- and moderate-income families.
The reality of manufactured housing
But there are problems with this form of shelter. First, approximately 50% of manufactured housing units in Montana were built prior to proper building code for this type of structure. Many units are unhealthy and extremely energy inefficient.
Second, financing is a major issue. The housing type has evolved from truly mobile “trailer” to permanent “factory built,” but financing systems have not kept up. Unless sitting on a permanent foundation (which most units are not) manufactured housing is titled like automobiles and loans tend to be short term and high priced. Moreover, most manufactured housing sits on leased rather than owned land, putting homeowners in unstable tenancy relationships. Month-to-month leases are not uncommon.
Working together to find solutions
We support NeighborWorks Montana, a state NGO, with cash and in-kind contributions, to organize residents of manufactured housing parks into cooperatives and stabilize tenancy by taking control of the land underneath their homes.
Lending to create stable foundations
We have designed an innovative loan product which provides borrowers a 20-year fixed rate at responsible pricing to make new purchases, refinances, and even cash out advances for small scale improvements more affordable for manufactured homeowners, regardless of whether there is a permanent foundation or not. The credit union has also partnered with local Human Resource Councils and the Montana Board of Housing to create loss reserves targeting replacement of the older, pre-building code units.
One home at a time
Clearwater Credit Union is proud to be putting its values to work to make these small, but powerful changes happen in the communities it serves.