Since 1980, NeighborWorks Great Falls (NWGF), formerly Neighborhood Housing Services of Great Falls, has been revitalizing declining neighborhoods and providing affordable housing to lower-income families. NWGF has a nationwide reputation for small city revitalization and has become a national model for statewide delivery of rural housing programs through its affiliate, the Montana HomeOwnership Network. In the years since its founding, NWGF has accomplished the following in the neighborhoods: Property tax revenues have increased by $4.5 million; vacancy rates have dropped from 16% to 2%; over 130 new homes have been built; over 400 dilapidated structures have been repaired or removed; hundreds of homes have been painted and rehabilitated; private and public investment has exceeded $100 million; annual neighborhood clean-up and crime watch programs have been organized; 99% of the lots are free of trash; many rental properties have been renovated and over 2,300 families have become homeowners. The Montana Board of Housing has committed more than $40 million in mortgages to NWGF programs.
NWGF has expanded the service area three times since 1983, each time, taking on a new neighborhood with its own set of problems, property and otherwise. As more families become interested in becoming homeowners, full-cycle homebuyer education becomes more important, such that the relationship between the buyer and NWGF stretches over a longer period of time. The longer term relationship will result in more stable homeowners and more successful loans.
Because lots within the neighborhoods are becoming scarce, NWGF will construct more homes on fewer lots, using townhouse and small lot developments. Another construction expansion will be the development of mixed use, mixed-income developments. NWGF will continue to provide support services for its affiliate, Montana Homeownership Network, and continue to drive the expansion of programs within the MHN network.
The current core NWGF programs will be first and second mortgages for down payment and closing costs, rehabilitation loans, due-on-sale mortgage subsidies, full-cycle homebuyer education and counseling, post-purchase education for homeowners, new construction of affordable homes, reconstruction of deteriorated homes, high school house construction, mutual self-help construction, and neighborhood revitalization projects. The marketing efforts to sustain the core programs include the annual fund drive; successful relationships with the Montana Board of Housing and the City of Great Falls; and expanded marketing and outreach to our customers. The newsletter will remain the core communication effort. Operations financing will be three-tiered: federal funds through NeighborWorks and the City of Great Falls; the annual fund drive and foundation grants; and fees for service.