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Long wait for Section 8 housing assistance in Helena

5-year wait for Section 8 Housing assistance in Helena
Posted at 2:20 PM, Jul 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-16 16:20:46-04

HELENA — Some Montanans have seen increased rental rates in recent months, and Lewis & Clark County is no different.

For renters that are trying to make ends meet while keeping a roof over their head, there are options for seeking help, although it may take a while due to the high demand.

Cheryl Cohen is the Division Administrator of Montana Housing for the state. She says according to the American Community Survey census data from 2015 o 2019, "The median gross rent for Montana was $810, and that is an increase from $696 from the 2014 data set, so we can see based on that census data that it's definitely going up."

Forrent.com, a rental listing website that posts apartments and houses for rent, showed in a search in mid-July that the price point in Helena was even higher than that. A two-bedroom rental unit ranged from $950 a month to more than $1,000. Unfortunately, many other property management companies that are based in Helena showed little or no availability.

That demand has extended to programs aimed at helping qualified people find affordable housing, like the Housing Choice Voucher Program Section 8.

“We have to serve 50 percent of median income and below, so for Lewis and Clark County, a family of four, 50 percent of median income is around $42,000 a year," explained Cohen.

Through Section 8, people apply to be issued housing vouchers to help people afford the wage gap between salary and rent affordability.

5-year wait for Section 8 Housing assistance in Helena

If a resident were to call today to sign up for help, they would fall in line to number 430. The time until they would get to the top of the list would take about five years.

However, there are other options for Montanans struggling to pay to keep a roof over their head.

Affordable housing is another option, where the unit's rent may be restricted based on a particular fund source or program.

Cohen says, "There is the rental assistance, which we talked about, where it is a subsidy to the family where they pay thirty percent of their income, so like the housing choice vouchers section 8 program. There is also what we would call Affordable Housing. Where the rent of the unit may be restricted based on a particular fund source or program, so this could be like the low-income housing tax credit program or the assessment of the house program that we both administer here at Commerce."

For someone finding themselves to be at-risk homeless, there are non-profits in the area. Here is a complete list of resources.

Family Promise of Greater Helena
406-465-9467

Good Samaritan
406-442-0780

The Salvation Army Helena
406-442-8244

Montana Emergency Rental Assistance Program - Montana Housing