New study highlights need for more affordable housing

According to a new study, “A minimum wage worker in Lincoln County needs to work 64 hours per week to afford a two-bedroom home.”

Last week, Montana Budget & Policy Center released a new study about rent affordability across the state and although results are concerning, Lincoln County measured up better than much of the state on some key factors.

Positive points for Lincoln County included lower fair market rent rates and a larger supply of affordable housing than state averages.

On the down side, Lincoln County has a large percentage of renters living in poverty due to low income levels. We therefore also have a significant number of renters that are unable to find affordable housing.

According to the study’s definition, affordable housing must cost no more than 30% of a family’s income.

The study shows that, “There is no county in Montana where a minimum wage worker can afford a rental home at fair market rent.”

Lincoln County’s percentage of affordable rentals was only 25% based on the study’s criteria. Overall though, our county was better off than the state of Montana as a whole that had only 17% of rentals considered affordable.

The study also pointed out that 21% of Lincoln County households rent rather than own while the Montana average is much higher at 32.8%, but unfortunately 45.5% of Lincoln County renters live in poverty.

The study concludes that “Montana should invest in policy solutions that ensure every Montanan has a home.”

According to the owner of Town and Country Property Management, the area’s largest rental management company,  these results aren’t surprising.

“There is a real need for quality housing in Libby and Troy, and there is a very low inventory of available rental properties to choose from,” said owner Zach McNew. “It’s important that these issues be addressed, and studies like this will really help us to understand the problems so that we can develop long term solutions.”

Montana Budget & Policy Center is a nonprofit that has developed an interactive online housing affordability map to help community members, housing advocates, and policy makers better understand local housing needs and advocate common-sense solutions to Montana’s housing problems.

For more information visit www.montanabud get.org.