Skyview Trailer Park evictions

Mechailiah Hickman stands next to her home on Thursday in Skyview Trailer Park, where residents of about 34 trailer homes received eviction notices this week telling them to leave by April 30. Hickman and other residents said they have no idea where they'll go, with trailers too old to move and affordable housing out of reach for them.

My colleagues and I have been discussing the recent Missoulian article about the Skyview Trailer Park in Missoula’s Westside (Oct. 26). Residents have been notified that the trailer park will be developed in the near future, displacing those who currently live there.

In the article, those in crisis were encouraged to contact Missoula Housing Authority. Although there is nothing we would like more than to be able to help these residents with their immediate housing needs, our programs are structured to provide assistance before people reach a crisis state such as this.

Missoula Housing Authority provides permanent housing solutions for Missoula households. We currently own and manage 650 units as well as administer almost 900 vouchers that help pay rent. Because affordable housing is a substantial need in our community, there is a high demand for these properties and vouchers. New households can access them only when someone else moves out. As a result, all of our locations have substantial waitlists, varying from a few weeks up to several years.

Our waitlist for subsidized housing (where tenants pay 30 percent of their income for rent and the rest is subsidized through the federal government) is currently at 1,754. The wait time for our Section 8 “Housing Choice Voucher” program, our largest program, is anywhere from two to four years.

We keep our waitlists open all the time, and it’s easy to add your name to them. Simply come to our office on Tuesdays at 5:15 or Wednesdays at noon and bring a photo ID for a short orientation. We encourage anyone who thinks they may need assistance in the future to join a list today, because waiting until you are faced with an immediate housing need means there will be an entire waitlist ahead of you.

Other affordable properties have substantially shorter waitlists. In these properties, the tenant pays full rent, although the amount of rent that can be charged is capped at levels generally 10-15 percent less than market rate units. You can join an affordable property waitlist anytime by calling our office at 549-4113.

Most of Missoula Housing Authority’s programs serve very low-income households, which for a family of three or four people is approximately $30,000 per year. Some properties are available to people with higher incomes.

In the past five years we have created 162 new units of affordable housing and preserved another 234 to ensure they remain affordable in perpetuity. We are hard at work to preserve an additional 96 units. Our development efforts are often in partnership with other for-profit and nonprofit entities, without whom it would be impossible to bring these projects to completion.

We work tirelessly with local, state and federal funders, as well as other partners to continue to address an issue that seems to grow in intensity every year. With increasing demand and diminishing resources, it will take active participation from every sector of our community to address this critical issue. It is our vision that all people enjoy an enriched quality of life rooted in stable, affordable housing.

Anyone who needs help with an immediate crisis should dial 2-1-1 — our community’s information and referral hotline staffed by the Human Resource Council — as the first point of entry for help obtaining vital resources.

Lori Davidson is executive director of the Missoula Housing Authority.

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