Montana’s Housing Gap: Vouchers Prove Ineffective for Many

Montana's Housing Gap: Vouchers Prove Ineffective for Many

(Daily Montanan) The issue of housing in Montana is reaching a tipping point. New data from Montana Housing, a division of the Department of Commerce, reveals that nearly 25% of Montanans who received housing vouchers through June this year couldn’t use them. This is a marked increase from just last year when the number was nearly 19%.

“It’s incredibly discouraging,” lamented Montana Housing Division Administrator Cheryl Cohen during a recent presentation on rental assistance programs. “Imagine waiting months to finally get a housing voucher, only to discover that finding a rental unit that accepts it is virtually impossible. This is the harsh reality for many families, and it’s a situation that deeply concerns my team and me.”

The root of the problem lies in Montana’s chronic shortage of affordable and attainable rental options, forcing many people to either relocate from their communities or, in extreme cases, end up homeless. The vouchers, which are intended to offer some financial relief, often prove inadequate.

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) manages the Section 8 voucher program, aiming to cover between 90% and 110% of what they define as “Fair Market Rents.” These rates are determined based on community surveys conducted between 2017 and 2021. However, Cohen pointed out that this data is a bit outdated, creating a gap between the vouchers’ worth and current rental costs.

The situation is even more dire for the Veterans Affairs supportive housing program. Of the 374 vouchers distributed throughout Montana, a startling 143 remained unused this year. This number has been steadily climbing, up from 118 in 2022 and 90 in 2021. Cohen attributed part of this growing disparity to staffing shortages within the Veterans Affairs Department.

As Montana grapples with this housing dilemma, families and individuals who are already under financial strain are finding it increasingly difficult to secure a stable living situation, even with assistance. The issue calls for urgent attention and comprehensive solutions to provide real relief for those in need.

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