HELENA – The Montana Legislature Senate Finance and Claims Committee recently heard from members of the Montana Housing Coalition asking the Legislature to pass House Bill 21 and once again invest in the Multifamily Coal Trust Home Loan Program.

The Legislature created the Multifamily Coal Trust Home Loan Program in 2019, which designated $15 million from the Coal Trust Fund as a long-term funding source to make developing affordable housing feasible across the state. House Bill 21 would authorize another $15 million from the Coal Trust Fund for loans that will be paid back with interest.

“We are hopeful that the Legislature will pass HB 21 to create and preserve more homes that are affordable to working families,” said Shelia Rice, chair of the Housing Coalition. “HB 21 is an opportunity to invest Coal Trust money into Montana, creating jobs and providing workforce housing.”

According to a news release from the Housing Coalition, the first round of $15 million in loans created or preserved 252 apartments affordable to working families in six Montana towns. Additionally, the Multifamily Coal Trust Home Loan Program leveraged an additional $17.7 million in private investment, created 421 jobs, and supported $19 million in wages.

The coalition maintains that HB 21, the current bill to reauthorize the program with an additional $15 million, is critical because the need for affordable housing across Montana has been growing exponentially, especially as more people move into the state to escape pandemic lockdowns and areas of high COVID spread.

Proponents of the bill also focused on data points from a recent Bureau of Business and Economic Research study on affordable housing. Montana is missing out on federal funds to the tune of $949 million unused since 2012 and has denied over $300 million in federal housing tax credit requests over the past five years because of a lack of funding, the release states.

HB 21 will face executive action in the Finance and Claims Committee before being sent to the Senate for a full vote.