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Affordable housing program interests Polson Commission

by MATT BALDWIN
Lake County Leader | September 15, 2022 12:00 AM

The Polson City Commission last week expressed interest in partnering with a nonprofit on an affordable housing program that taps into the city’s tax increment finance district funds.

Under the proposal, the city would purchase a property within the TIF district and convey the land and home to the Northwest Montana Community Land Trust. During the transaction, a title to the land would be separated from a title to the structure on the land.

The land would be held permanently in the trust, Northwest Montana Community Land Trust director Kim Morisaki explained to the commission at their Sept. 7 meeting.

The structure is then sold to eligible homebuyers at an affordable price. The buyer also pays a modest “ground lease” to the trust, which establishes rights to use the land.

“By taking the value of the land out of the cost of the house, you’re able to bring the cost of the home down” Morasaki explained.

When the homeowner wants to sell, the resale price is calculated using a formula that keeps the price affordable for the next buyer. The seller is able to recoup their investment and “a little bit of equity,” Morasaki said.

“It’s a win-win for everybody,” she said.

With the commission’s approval Sept. 7, the city will begin to develop an initial set of guidelines for how the program would operate in the TIF district. The commission would then approve those perimeters.

Polson City Manager Ed Meece said he expects to have the guidelines in front of the commission within a few months.

The program is active in Kalispell, where the city, in partnership with Northwest Montana Community Land Trust, has used grant funding to purchase and redevelop abandoned and foreclosed homes.

Since 2012, Northwest Montana Community Land Trust has helped 50 low- and moderate-income families purchase homes though the trust program.

ALSO AT the Sept. 7 commission meeting, commissioners approved the city budget for fiscal year 2023.

The commission had held a preliminary budget hearing on Aug. 29.

Total revenues and expenditures for FY23 are $15,466,699 and $16,224,120, respectively.

The budget includes a 3% cost of living wage hike for employees who are paid from general fund coffers, including police, fire, and parks and recreation workers. That’s the same rate that was included in the 2022 budget.

“Given the tumult of the cost of living the last 12 months, we decided to keep it at that number,” Meece said.

The commission also unanimously OK’d a resolution to levy special improvement districts and special maintenance districts for fiscal year 2023.

Total assessments for the year are $90,290, which will be placed on the 2022 property tax bill.

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