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Local nonprofit helps mobile home residents make improvements with low-interest loans

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A local nonprofit has launched a program to help people who live in mobile homes in Montana and Idaho make much-needed repairs and improvements without having to resort to taking out high-interest loans.

The Montana & Idaho Community Development Corp., based in Missoula, is rolling out the new Mobile Home Improvement Loan Program. A Missoula woman, Laila Huson, was the first person to be approved. She took out a $3,200 loan to help install a new roof on the home she shares with her young sons.

“Every year, we go up on the roof to try to seal the leaks, but it’s an aluminum roof – with the hot and cold expanding and contracting, it’s a regular problem,” Huson said. “Most places where I could get a loan would charge a 36 percent interest rate and require me to use my car as collateral. If I missed a payment due to illness, I could lose my only means of transportation.”

Dave Glaser, the President of the MICDC, said that mobile home owners have a significantly harder time finding financing for home repairs, which can lead to uncomfortable and unhealthy living conditions. Huson agrees with him.

“Most people would feel like this is a situation with a requirement for collateral or an outrageous interest rate,” Laila said. “When I first heard about it, I didn’t believe it. But this is not hype – they are there to help.”

Glaser said his staff actually went to the community where Huson lives and went door to door telling people about the program. Now, they have applications pending from homeowners for winterization, heating and cooling, flooring, new windows and energy-efficiency upgrades. The loans can also be used by mobile home communities for things such as playgrounds, lighting, signage and landscaping.

“These are really low-interest rate loans,” Glaser said. “The exact interest rate depends on the borrower, but it’s far better than what they could expect to find elsewhere. The idea is to help them afford these upgrades and make them affordable to their cash flow on a case-by-case basis. We take a look at the family’s income and help them decide upon an interest rate and a loan amount they can afford.”

The amount the borrower pays monthly is on a sliding scale and based on monthly income and expenses.

Glaser said MICDC launched the program in response to needs he and his staff saw while providing financing for other communities. Recently, MICDC has worked with NeighborWorks Montana to help three mobile home communities establish resident-owned communities (ROC) and finance the acquisition of the land under their homes. The goal is to give residents long-term security and control over maintenance needs. When they were working with these communities, they found other problems that were not being addressed.

“When we work with a community to finance an ROC loan, it always uncovers community infrastructure problems like unsafe playgrounds and water systems, as well as individual homeowner needs like leaky roofs and broken windows,” said Catherine Jones, development director at MICDC. “We decided that in addition to helping mobile home communities form ROCs and buy the land, we’d seek funding to help them address other issues related to health, safety and well-being.”

The program through MICDC is only available to residents in Montana and Idaho.

To apply for a Mobile Home Improvement Loan for an individual mobile home or a mobile home community, contact Julie Ehlers at 844-728-9235 ext. 225 (although she is out of the office until after Jan. 3). Visit https://mtcdc.org/ to find out more.

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