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Heather McMilin, left, and Andrea Davis of Homeword stand in one of the 10 small modular homes that the nonprofit acquired and plans to use for affordable home ownership or rental. The homes, some fully equipped with furniture and kitchen items, were originally destined for Sidney to house oilfield workers until oil prices fell.

The City of Missoula and a local nonprofit have a plan to place six manufactured homes that went unused at the Bakken oil fields on a vacant lot next to the Missoula Food Bank as a little community for low-income residents.

Homeword, a nonprofit that works to provide affordable housing in the Missoula area, bought 10 small modular homes that originally were meant for oil workers last year. They are not considered “tiny homes” because they are bigger, 450 square feet for the one-bedroom version and 550 square feet for two bedrooms.

They’ll be placed on permanent foundations, with porches and storage added, and there might be a community garden area in the future. Five of the units will be sold to homebuyers at or below 80 percent of the Missoula area median income.

Homeword is seeking $288,924 from Missoula's HOME Investment Partnerships Program to help fund the $879,658 project. The HOME funding comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

There still is some work to do on the land at 1717 Montana St., and Homeword is applying for a Brownfields grant for environmental remediation because the site used to be home to a car mechanic’s shop.

Will Sebern, the grants administrator for the city’s Office of Housing and Community Development, said the HOME funding will go to help with the purchase price of the units, site work and rehab on the units.

“The great thing about this project is it’s providing affordable home ownership opportunities,” he said. “According to data from the Missoula Organization of Realtors, last year there was a real tightening of supply in that market for homes under $200,000 where these homes would be priced. It’s a real step to start addressing declining supply in the market for working families who have a lot of difficulty buying median-priced homes, because that price keeps going up.”

One of the homes will be sold at market rate, according to Andrea Davis, the executive director of Homeword. The land is owned by the Missoula Food Bank, but she said the nonprofit always had the intention of selling to Homeword.

“Their desire is to have a good neighbor,” Davis said. “We are hoping to partner with Garden City Harvest to potentially have a community garden plot there.”

Due to federal requirements for the use of HOME funds, the city is requesting public comment on a draft environmental assessment of the project. The City of Missoula has determined that the project will have no significant impact on the human environment, but anyone disagreeing with that decision may submit written comments before Monday, Nov. 20, by emailing wsebern@ci.missoula.mt.us or dropping them off or mailing to 435 Ryman St., Missoula, MT 59802.

Additional project information is contained in the Environmental Review Record on file at the Office of Housing and Community Development, located at 414 Ryman St. in Missoula and the City of Missoula’s Development Services at 435 Ryman St. and may be examined at both offices and copied at the Housing and Community Development Office weekdays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Environmental Review Record is also posted online at ci.missoula.mt.us/2086/Housing-Community-Development.

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