Affordable Housing Trust Fund credit provided to support RV parking

Some residents of the Twen Tre mobile home park in Missoula’s Franklin-to-the-Fort neighborhood have lived there since the 1970s. Now, with help from the Missoula City Council, they hope they can stay well into the future.

The council voted unanimously Monday to allocate $181,550 to NeighborWorks Montana’s efforts to convert Twen Tre into a Bonnie’s Place community home. The funds come from the reserve balance of the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

$181,550 represents the entire balance from the reserve fund.

“I’ve lived here a long time,” said Sandy Powell of Twen Tre, who moved in in 1985. “We have to get this working. There is a possibility that 24 families would be homeless.”

The park consists of 24 caravan sites, including one rental car. The closing date for the sale of the park is March 21st. Meanwhile, residents are pooling private funds and the AHTF reserve contribution to purchase their property.

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Powell said she would move to Arlee with her husband if the sale doesn’t go through, which would be impractical since all of her husband’s doctors are based in Missoula. Plus, Powell said, she enjoys living in the quiet and friendly park where she’s lived for 37 years.

Still, Powell was grateful that she at least has an option to move. Many of their neighbors are not so lucky.

“It’s been really hard for everyone because nobody wants to move,” Powell said.

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She pointed to the lack of affordable rents and the incompatibility of housing for many families. She added that there are only a paltry number of places to park trailers in and around Missoula, and even those who could find a place could end up paying $8,000 to $10,000 in moving expenses.

With about half of park residents dependent on Social Security, Powell explained, few park residents could afford such exorbitant expenses.

“Without that, there’s no other option,” repeated Powell’s neighbor Brian Lease.

Lease, the president of the organization that leads the home ownership prosecution, has lived most of his life in trailer parks. He sees them as a great option for young families and older adults looking to own a home.

“I hope it brings our community affordable home ownership and pride in where they live,” he said. He also believes housing opportunities like this bring diversity to the entire Missoula area.

Lease said there was overwhelming support from the park community.

“We got excellent buy-in from residents,” he said. Lease believes this energy comes from the legacy of the park’s original owner, Bonnie Franks.

“That’s exactly what she wants to see for the people she brought here and gave them a home,” he said.

Council members shared Lease and Powell’s enthusiasm for the project.

“It’s really important that we keep the affordable housing in Missoula that we already have right now,” said Ward 3’s Daniel Carlino, “and I think the money is going to be put to good use to give the people who already live there to help keep living at an affordable price and be able to own it yourself in the future.”

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He said he wishes Missoula would put more money into the AHTF in the future.

Councilwoman Kristen Jordan of Ward 6 said, “I love this initiative. I love that it’s happening in Franklin to the Fort.”

“I just think it’s wonderful that we’re preserving a certain way that people are already living,” she added.

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