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The conference took place on May 18-19, 2021, being held virtually instead of in-person due to COVID-19.
The two-day conference featured 20 sessions covering various housing-related topics concerning Montana and three plenary sessions. You can access recordings on pages 5-6 of the Conference Program. Below you will also find information for each session, including the recording.


Meeting the Housing Needs of Rural Places

The day began with welcoming messages from Daniel Pocha of the Little Shell Chippewa Tribe, as well as messages from Senator Daines, Senator Tester, and Governor Gianforte. We were then joined by Marietta Rodriquez, Director and CEO of NeighborWorks America who shared a few remarks and lead us into our rural panel discussion.

Our opening plenary session brought together experts in the field of rural housing from NeighborWorks organizations across the country. The panel  discussed different issues and solutions in rural housing including Native Homeownership, diversity, and inclusion, and how COVID has affected the work of rural housing organizations.


Panelists: Sarah Kackar Director, Rural Initiative, NeighborWorks America; Laura Buxbaum, SVP, Public Policy and Resource Development Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI); Elizabeth Bridgewater Executive Director, Windham & Windsor Housing Trust; Lori Moen Chief Operating Officer, GROW South Dakota


Montana Eviction Intervention Project

Montana Eviction Intervention Project- Lessons Learned from Representing Tenants discussed the innovative eviction intervention project launched by Montana Legal Services Association in partnership with the Montana Department of Commerce.

Montana has seen a growing number of pandemic related evictions in 2020 and 2021 and this session will talk about lessons learned and tools developed as part of a project aimed at providing legal representation to every tenant at risk of eviction in the state.


Panelists: Amy Hall, Attorney at Montana Legal Services Association; Rachel Turnbow, Disaster & Montana Eviction and Intervention Program Coordinator, Montana Legal Services Association


Creating Unique Homeownership Opportunities: Self-Help Homes

Mutual Self Help Housing helps hard working families and individuals attain homeownership by building their own home. This panel discussion by NeighborWorks Great Falls and Helena Area Habitat for Humanity will discuss their experience running the program, as well as RCACUSDA Rural Development and Community Frameworks on the inner workings and technical assistance needed for a successful program. 

About the program: The Mutual Self Help Housing program allows a group of families and individuals to work together to build one another’s home, and in doing so build one another’s dream of homeownership. Families work nights and weekends to provide at least 65% of the construction labor, creating “sweat equity”. In doing so, families earn that equity, decrease construction costs, and make lasting investments in their community and in their future.


Panelists: Katie Batterbee, Director of Marketing and Real Estate, NeighborWorks Great Falls; Jeffery Jordon, Rural Development Specialist, RCAC; Brenda Kukay, Owner Built Homes Coordinator, NeighborWorks Great Falls; Keith Nelson, Director of Construction, NeighborWorks Great Falls; Katina Uecker, Program Director, USDA Rural Development; Jacob Kuntz, Executive Director, USDA Rural Development; Jeff Nicely, Senior Housing Specialist, Community Frameworks


Keeping HUD Dollars Local to Benefit Lower-Income Residents and Businesses

HUD Field Policy Management (FPM) staff provided an overview of Section 3 with details regarding the updated Section 3 rule change during 2020.

The session provided an interactive presentation, as well as an opportunity for session participants to ask questions or discuss changes related to the new Section 3 rule and prospective changes to protocols to help support the implementation of the Section 3 rule.

This session is recommended for entities that receive HUD funds and must carryout compliance with the Section 3 regulations.


Panelists: Jennifer Olson, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; Geoffrey Hickox, Field Policy and Management, Senior Program Analyst, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

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Getting Permanent Supportive Housing Off the Ground: A Case Study of Cornerstone

In December 2020, the Missoula Housing Authority, in partnership with the FUSE project and others, opened their new 12-unit permanent supportive housing project, Cornerstone.

What did it take? How did it go? How is it doing so far? What lessons did we learn for the next project? What would it take to do it in your community?

This session included three parts.

  • Part one, an overview of the Missoula FUSE project.

  • Part two, a description of how the project came together, the funding, design, partnerships etc. by MHA.

  • Part three, a panel of the operation-level team that developed the programming, sorted out the roles and responsibilities and wedded the services and housing into a real working relationship. Spoiler alert - that part went easier than the others!


Panelists: Jim McGrath, Director of HUD Programs, Missoula Housing Authority; Theodore Madden, Chief Operating Officer, Montana Healthcare Foundation; Lori Davidson, Executive Director, Missoula Housing Authority; Mary Melton, Asset Manager, Missoula Housing Authority; Ellie Greenwood, Property Manager, Missoula Housing Authority; Anna Nilles, FUSE Program Development Manager, Partnership Health Center; Lisa Sirois, Housing Navigator, Partnership Health Center


Working with Different Funders

Finding funding can be difficult. We were joined a panel of funders from diverse funding backgrounds as they discussed what they look for when funding projects and organizations, how to build relationships with different funders, how COVID has changed funding priorities.


Panelists: Katie Rollyson, Community Relations, Wells Fargo; Lue Her, Regional Director, Montana and Wisconsin, Otto Bremer; Rosalie Sheehy Cates, Senior Advisor and Executive in Residence, The Giving Practice; Linda Tracy, Western Director, The Steele-Reese Foundation; Katie Biggs, Marketing & Resource Development Manager, NeighborWorks Montana


Local Housing Resources and Development

As housing challenges rise across Montana, local municipalities are working to pull together resources and build support to meet local housing needs. A number of communities in Montana have already or are establishing local Housing Trust Funds. Panelists from Helena, Missoula, and Big Sky will share how their communities are creating these funds, what the role and funding sources are, and what priorities they are hoping to address with these resources.


Panelists: Erica Wirtala, Public Affairs Director, Northwest Montana Association of Realtors; Laura Seyfang, Executive Director, Big Sky Community Housing Trust; Emily Harris-Shears, Affordable Housing Trust Fund Administrator in Community Planning, Development & Innovation, City of Missoula; Sharon Haugen, Director, City of Helena


Creating Solutions: Montana Mediators Take Action

In this session, we will learned how communities in Billings, Bozeman, Helena, and Missoula use Certified Mediators and the existing system(s) to help landlords and tenants work out conflict. The panelists will consist of Montana Mediation Association representatives, the Billings Mediation Center, and Good Samaritan Ministries of Helena. 

In Yellowstone County, the Billings Mediation Center (Conflict Resilience Project) and Montana Mediation Association have partnered with Judge Carter and Judge Walker to use the judicial system to help landlords and tenants work out issues.

In 2020, Good Samaritan Ministries in Helena piloted a Housing Navigation program to serve the workforce housing community members in the Lewis and Clark county. This program connects and engages community members, landlords, property managers, and housing partners to housing services and resources. During COVID 19, Good Samaritan has also successfully offered financial assistance with eviction prevention, rental assistance, and mortgage assistance. Good Samaritan continues to serve the most vulnerable and homeless population.


Panelists: LaDawn Whiteside, President, Montana Mediation Association; Temple McLean, Executive Director, Billings Mediation Center; Chandler Rowling, Housing Navigator, Good Samaritan Ministries


Scouting for Native Homeownership

Montana is home to thousands of tribal citizens from several tribal nations living both on and off the reservation areas, and in no place is the disparity in racial equity and opportunity more blaring than in Native housing and homeownership. As our nation and our state seeks to build racial equity and as individuals and organizations we seek to practice inclusion, we can and should explore new solutions to the housing crisis we see in Montana’s Native population. 

Have you been thinking about how your organization can be more involved with Native housing in Montana? Have you explored different options in the past and come up still not hitting the mark in the inclusion of Native Homeownership? This past year has raised questions for many people and organizations about how to be more inclusive. Especially in Montana, we recognize the importance of Tribal nations and the history of our lands.

This dynamic session addressed housing-related challenges facing our Native American population in better understanding the current dynamic presented in Native Homeownership. Our goal of the session is to start the conversation as to how we approach these challenges. Vision and inclusion of Montana’s native population in your programming or strategic plans starts by recognizing those challenges and identifying where you can make a difference. We will explore various collaborations that have occurred in the state between native and non-native organizations to highlight where growth in partnerships can occur. Strategic partnerships are integral to explore and build on. We will explore this territory through addressing challenges and engaging in solutions-based thinking.

We look forward to engaging in meaningful, intentional conversation about how to address Montana’s native homeownership challenges in your organizations. Learn more about Montana’s Indian country, understand the challenges faced and explore new opportunities for how you and your organization can be part of the solution. Let us each find our call to action and take steps forward together.


Panelists: Tonya Plummer, Executive Director, Montana Native Growth Fund;  Robert Gauthier, Administrator, United Native American Housing Association; Lakota Vogel, Executive Director, Four Bands Community Loan Fund;  Hanna Tester, Housing Network Manager, NeighborWorks Montana


Cooperative Development Housing Models and Investment Cooperatives

The Montana Cooperative Development Center (MCDC) presented on how investing cooperatives, which are branded as Opportunity Development Cooperatives, are the newest innovative way to address housing shortages, specifically workforce, in Montana. MCDC will review traditional housing cooperatives then move into why communities and businesses should explore the model that Gardiner Montana is leading with and develop an Opportunity Development Cooperative.

An Opportunity Development Cooperative (ODCs) is a for-profit co-op made up of local community members who identify businesses, projects, or causes into which they choose to invest as a co-op.

Opportunity Development Cooperatives, also known as investment cooperatives, is a new and innovative model for rural and urban economic and business development that effectively bridges the gap between local investors and local ventures in need of financing. ODCs are a cost-effective, community-owned, and controlled impact fund. They enable residents to become accountable partners in locally-driven economic development, which leads to healthier and more sustainable communities and economies. In other words, local money won't be invested in stocks and mutual funds, but more importantly, in local projects and people.

Now, how does ODC's address housing? In Gardiner's sample, a group of employers has formed to develop a fund to purchase, build, and invest in housing for employers. The group is in their incorporation stage of subscription agreements and will raise funds within the next year.

This concept could be the solution for communities, especially those impacted by seasonal workforce and significant growth patterns, for workforce housing. In addition to the OCD model, MCDC will incorporate more traditional models of housing cooperatives such as Riverside Crossing Housing Cooperative in Hamilton, Montana.


Panelists: Tracy McIntyre, Executive Director; Davey Madison, Program Director; both of Montana Cooperative Development Center


Jumbo Size Aspirin Bottle, Developing Tax Credit Projects

This panel included representatives from the teams working on several large-scale 4% LIHTC projects – Trinity (Homeword, Missoula Housing Authority & BlueLine Development) and Villagio (Missoula Housing Authority & Blueline) in Missoula; Arrowleaf (HRDC & GMD Development) in Bozeman.  

They also discussed the complexity and necessity of the partnerships, review project status and goals, identify the biggest opportunities and challenges for this model in Montana.


Panelists: Lori Davidson, Executive Director, Missoula Housing Authority; Heather McMilin, Project Development Director, Homeword; Nathan Richmond, Chief Executive Officer, Blueline Development; Gregory Dunfield, President/Owner, GMD Development; Tracy Menuez, Associate Director, HRDC Bozeman


Working with the Media & Fact Sheet Development

Join long-time journalists Courtney Lowery-Cowgill and Anne Bailey from the UM School of Journalism's Montana Media Lab to discuss practical tips for conveying your story effectively to the media.

You’ll learn best ways to contact journalists, what to do when a reporter calls for an interview and what information television, radio and newspaper journalists need from you to best tell your story. Through practice and feedback, we'll also help you become more comfortable with being interviewed, both on and off camera.


Panelists: Anne Bailey, Director, Montana Media Lab, University of Montana; Courtney Cowgill, Adjunct Instructor and Director of Media and Engagement, University of Montana School of Journalism and Montana Media Lab


Montana State Housing Policy

Join us as we review the results of legislative efforts in the 2021 and past sessions; propose actions to increase the amount of funding for homes that are affordable to working families, seniors, and individuals with permanent disabilities and review the recently published "Montana Housing Study" by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research.


Panelists: Sheila Rice, Lobbyist, Montana Housing Coalition; Michael O'Neil, Executive Director, Helena Housing Authority; Andrea Davis, Executive Director, Homeword; Peggy Trenk, Lobbyist, Montana Housing Coalition


Awards Ceremony & Plenary: Storytelling as a Leadership Tool

We started the day with a short award ceremony followed by Plenary Speaker, Sarah Elkins of Elkins Consulting. 

Storytelling as a Leadership Tool
Did you know that the stories you tell and how you tell them contribute to your internal messages and impact the perceptions others have of you?

We cannot control what people think of us, but we can influence their perceptions through our actions and the stories we share. The things we say, the things we do, the content we share, all influence the perceptions others have of us, and when we’re intentional about those things, those perceptions are far more likely to be in alignment with how we see ourselves, how we want to see ourselves.

Sharing the right stories at the right time can be all we need to truly connect with others and demonstrate our values, character, and talents in a way people find engaging and relatable.


Plenary Speaker: Sarah Elkins, Chief Storyteller, Elkins Consulting


Housing Navigation and Community Engagement

Housing navigators in general work in many areas of housing services like financial assistance, landlord and tenant mediation, and keeping in check with fair housing rights/policies to just name a few.

During COVID-19, these housing navigation programs have shown to be essential as our homeless population continues to grow and be vulnerable due to lack of shelter options. Also, many people who were living paycheck to paycheck before COVID-19 have found themselves facing housing insecurity and many of them have never been in this situation before. These events have caused a huge strain on services, financial assistance, and the housing market when these were already a high-demand before COVID-19. However, despite the many barriers that have been presented these housing navigators have been creative to create innovative ways that they could still serve those in need of housing and strengthen community engagement.

In this session, participants received information based on those experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity. Two of the navigators serve the population that is categorized as very to extremely low-income and the other navigator focuses on those who are considered the workforce housing. 


Panelists: Chandler Rowling, Housing Navigator, Good Samaritan Ministries; Sean Patrick O'Neill, Housing Manager, Community Action Partnership of Northwest Montana; Steve Fournier, Housing Navigator, Action Inc.


Community Land Trust Progress in Montana

This session briefly described the CLT model and then discuss in more detail, what is happening with CLTs in Montana. The first part of the presentation focused on local CLTs in the state, the way they came about, how they operate, and what they are doing currently to provide affordable housing. The second part of the presentation focused on the state-wide CLT, Trust Montana, its goals, its accomplishments, and its ongoing projects.


Panelists: Lori Freeman, Attorney; Austin Wallis, Outreach and Advocacy Coordinator; both of Trust Montana


Partnership Approach to Housing Production

Great Falls has taken a partnership approach to address the critical need to produce more high quality affordable housing. This panel described how partnerships have worked to support a range of rental and homeownership projects and next steps planned to try to keep housing in our community affordable. Panelists will include NeighborWorks Great Falls, Great Falls Development Authority, City of Great Falls, and private developers.


Panelists: Bred Doney, President & CEO, Great Falls Montana Development Authority; Sherrie Arey, Executive Director, NeighborWorks Great Falls; Craig Raymond, Planning & Community Development Director, City of Great Falls; Pat Corrick, Managing Partner, Farran Realty Partners


Building a Stronger, Diverse, Affordable Montana Using LIHTC

LIHTC (Low-Income Housing Tax Credits)

In this dynamic presentation, a mix of Montana affordable housing developers discussed the ins/outs of structuring tax credit developments in their communities. They'll share insight on large, transformative affordable housing for work force families, permanent supportive housing for our homeless neighbors, and everything in between. We'll also discuss the ups and downs of the tax credit market, a key financial component of most affordable housing communities in Montana, and share best practices on how to lean in to the rollercoaster ride.


Panelists: Cat Vielma, SVP Acquisitions, Red Stone Equity Partners; Heather McMilin, Project Development Director, Homeword; Lori Davidson, Executive Director, Missoula Housing Authority; Nathan Richmond, Chief Executive Officer, BlueLine Development


Creating Your Narrative

We all face challenges in identifying the right story to share with the right audience and may underestimate the impact of those stories on our internal messages and on the perceptions of the people around us. That’s where improved communication through storytelling can help, particularly in the areas of emotional connection (empathy), persuasion, and personal comfort in awkward and stressful situations. 

This presentation builds on the storytelling concepts introduced in Sarah’s plenary. We dive into how storytelling impacts our internal messages and relationships, as well as how to communicate in a natural, conversational tone. Participants will be reminded of active listening concepts in the context of story sharing and building connections and will begin to create their own story portfolio. 


Speaker: Sarah Elkins, Chief Storyteller, Elkins Consulting


Creating Partnerships to Increase Renter Access

Join us for a conversation about two programs in Missoula that partner with local landlords and community members to support renters with barriers and increase their access to rental homes they can afford. Homeword’s Property Partner Program and the Missoula Interfaith Collaborative’s Housing Advocate Network provide a continuum of support for landlords and renters, creating strong partnerships to increase the success of our neighbors who live at risk of homelessness or recidivism.


Panelists: Karissa Trujillo, Operations and Program Director, Homeword; Alex Ramsing,Landlord Liaison, Homeword; Zeke Campfield, Director, Housing Advocate Network, Missoula Interfaith Collaborative; Jane Kisselbach, Concerned Citizen and Volunteer, Missoula Interfaith Collaborative


Affordable Housing Program: Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines

Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines’ Competitive Affordable Housing Program (AHP) encourages partnerships between our Member financial institutions and local housing providers (Sponsors) to strengthen Montana communities by securing grant funds for the purchase, construction or rehabilitation of affordable owner-occupied or rental housing units. This session will discuss the eligibility requirements, scoring criteria and feasibility guidelines for AHP subsidy applications received from the Competitive AHP General Fund. We will discuss the different project types: Homeownership and Rental; Sponsor applicants; Member support for Sponsor applicants; and our 2021 application round schedule.

They also discuss how eligible households can receive up to $7,500 through the FHLB Des Moines Home$tart® Program or up to $15,000 through the Native American Homeownership Initiative to help with down payment and closing cost assistance.


Panelists: Ryan Sullivan, Homeownership Manager; Renee Marrs, Rental Housing Manager; Melody Dawe, Down Payment Products Manager; all of Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines


Accessible, Affordable Housing During and After the Pandemic:
Independent Living Specialists

Montana Centers for Independent Living (CILs) with Atlantis Community, Inc. (Denver, Colorado) presented on:

  1. Expectations for community living heightened during COVID-19 and related policies and programs and how some policies have challenged these expectations during the COVID-19 pandemic

  2. Housing policies and programs that CILs promote as critical components of transition plans developed and supported by hospitals, schools, and human service agencies

  3. Emerging and promising inclusive housing policies and programs with invited presenters from Atlantis Community, Inc. (Denver)

  4. Statewide housing outcomes of CARES Act funding to CILs by the Administration on Community Living with personal success stories from Montanans with disabilities


Panelists: Travis Hoffman, Advocacy Coordinator, Summit Independent Living; Bronwyn Troutman, Community Living Specialist, Summit Independent Living; Shyla Patera, Independent Living Specialist, North Central Independent Living Services


Creating Affordable Housing with People in Mind: The Relationship Between Livability and Affordability

How do we design an affordable housing project that places equal importance on livability and affordability, and on community priorities and public/owner needs? In this session, we will address the relationship between civic engagement and site design for affordable housing projects. Participants will learn four key elements that contribute to project success:

  1. Outreach process

  2. Tools and public engagement during and post-COVID

  3. Site design for livability and community goals

  4. How creative partnerships assist in funding housing projects


Panelists: Laura Kirk, Principal; Jason Jaynes, Principal; both of DHM Design

Closing Plenary:

Montanans Seeking Stability and Support in the COVID Era

In the final plenary we’ll hear from residents who will share their experiences navigating new challenges during COVID and using Emergency Housing Rental Assistance. We also heard from staff at Montana Housing and NeighborWorks Montana who shared updates on rental and other housing programs coming from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).


Panelists: Cheryl Cohen, Executive Director, Montana Housing; Kaia Peterson, Executive Director, NeighborWorks Montana

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