With the high cost of homes in Missoula, many people have given up the dream of owning their own home. However, there are special financing programs available that can make the ownership of modest homes possible for lower-income buyers.

For example, since the beginning of the year, various nonprofit programs in the Missoula area have helped renter households with annual incomes from about $15,000 to $25,000 become homeowners.

A free workshop is available at homeWORD's Homeownership Center to help people get an estimate of how much they can qualify for in a home loan, and what special financing programs are currently available to add to their own resources.

The workshop is called "Assessing Homebuyer Readiness," and is offered several times a month. The workshop takes about 1-2 1/2 hours, and is offered over the noon hour and in the early evening to make it possible for working people to attend. There is no need to register ahead of time.

To get the most out of the workshop, people should bring along two kinds of information: household income from all sources before taxes or other deductions, and the minimum monthly payment amount for all credit cards, car loans, student loans, or other debt payments.

The NeighborWorks Missoula Homeownership Network offers support for homeownership throughout the cycle of owning a home. Here is a list of the "Assessing Homebuyer Readiness" workshops and other classes for homeownership in the Missoula area for the month of June:

n "Assessing Homebuyer Readiness Workshop," Thursday, June 14, noon-1 p.m. and Tuesday, June 19, 5:30-6:30 p.m.: One-hour workshop provides a quick estimate of participant's potential to purchase a home, based on assessment of income and debt and qualifications for special first-time homebuyer programs, with suggestions on next steps toward homeownership. Free. Held at the walk-in homeWORD Homeownership Center, 127 N. Higgins Ave., Room 303. Call homeWORD at 543-3550 for more information.

n Tuesday, June 5, and Monday June 18, 6-8 p.m. at 819 Stoddard St. "Buying Your Home with the Land Stewardship Program": Two hour orientations on the housing land trust model and how it can help first-time homebuyers take the cost of land out of the purchase of a home. Call 829-8414 for more information.

n Saturday, June 9, 1-3 p.m.: "Short and Simple Repairs for Your Yard" Workshop through the Tool Library. Learn how to rehang a gate and repair fences, gutters, exterior walls. Meet at MUD site, 629 Phillips St. Free for Tool Library and MUD members, $3 for others.

n Saturday, June 30, 1-3 p.m., "Walkways and Patios" workshop on how to use cobblestones and bricks, including design techniques and tricks for construction. Meet at MUD site, 629 Phillips St. Free for Tool Library and MUD members, $3 for others.

The NeighborWorks Missoula Homeownership Network monthly column features program and events for Missoula's low- and moderate- income homeowners and first-time homebuyers.

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