When the Creekside Apartments on East Broadway Street went up for sale this May, Homeword got competitive. The Missoula-based affordable-housing nonprofit was forced to compete with out-of-state realtors who wanted to buy the 160-unit low-income complex, presumably to sell at market value. This would have posed a significant problem for current tenants, who have incomes of no more than 60 percent of the area's median annual income, which is $27,720 for a single person.
"We were the only Montana organization, let alone nonprofit ... that put in a competitive offer," says Andrea Davis, Homeword's executive director. "Competition was very high."
The complex is a prime piece of Missoula real estate, spitting distance from campus and positioned alongside the Clark Fork river, making it especially attractive to developers. Adding to the urgency was the upcoming expiration of the deed restriction that classified Creekside as affordable housing. The restriction is set to lapse in 2026, but it could have expired sooner under the ownership of a market-rate developer.
Homeword ultimately won out, and it's now in the process of closing on the complex. The organization plans to renew the deed restriction and maintain the complex's use by low-income renters. The acquisition of Creekside nearly doubles the number of Missoula units under Homeword ownership, bringing the total to 339.
Davis says no major renovations to the property are immediately necessary.
Davis stresses the importance of affordable housing as part of Missoula's broader plan to curb poverty and homelessness in the city. She says that without properties like Creekside, people attempting to find permanent housing may wind up stuck in transitional housing.
"If we lost these 160 units to market rates, we could exacerbate the homelessness issue, because it could just trickle down," Davis says.
Preserving Creekside's status as low-income housing also makes fiscal sense for the city at large, according to Eran Pehan, director of the city's Office of Housing and Community Development. Pehan says that preserving existing affordable housing costs "pennies on the dollar" versus the cost of replacing them.
"We need housing for folks making median income and for folks making below the median income," Pehan says. "As long as we have adequate support at all levels, we won't feel a pinch in the housing market."