Educating and Advocating Housing Opportunities for All
Ready to Rent creates change, generates knowledge & provides housing opportunities to set families & individuals up for long term stability.
I am not an employee of BNY Mellon, or an immediate family member of a BNY Mellon employee
I am over 18 years of age
My organization is incorporated as a non-profit, for-profit, or hybrid organization, or I have a partner that is incorporated and could accept funds on my behalf
I have already piloted my initiative and have some initial evidence of impact
My organization is headquartered and creating impact in the United States
Where are you making a difference?
MT: Great Falls (59401)
Focus Areas (required)
Children & Youth
Development & Prosperity
Environment & Sustainability
Health & Fitness
Human Rights & Equality
Peace & Harmonious Relations
Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.
Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working towards the next level of expansion)
1.Founding Story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed.
I work as NeighborWorks Great Falls’ (NWGF) HomeOwnership planner, counseling approximately 300 people looking for assistance fixing and raising their credit score and financial status so that they can become homeowners. In the last four years of advising, I realized that many of our clients were not ready for home purchase or, after looking at the options, just wanted a safe, affordable rental. This was my initial “aha” moment. NWGF recognized the need for rentals and began building apartments about 2 years ago; the concept of paring rental education and security deposit loans fit together well. This education will produce better renter and provide security deposits to get into a better housing situation.
2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?
NWGF is helping to resolve the barriers that prevent people from being successful renters in Great Falls. Those barriers can include bad credit history, a criminal record, past negative rental history or a lack of understanding that renters should expect rentals to be taken care of, safe and without unhealthy conditions. Our Ready to Rent program will teach people how to overcome these barriers and help them find quality affordable rentals.
3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.
To help solve this problem requires education first. Training topics include: tenant rights, financial education, solving issues, settling in, and more. This class is designed to provide the necessary skills and education to set attendees up for future success as a renter. After completing the “Ready to Rent” course, clients are eligible to apply for the rental loan to cover the first/last months’ rent or security deposits. The loan will be up to $1,000 at a 5% interest rate with the maximum loan term being 36 months. The rental loan is available to families and individuals of any income, the rental property must be in the city of Great Falls or Cascade County, and applicant’s debt ratio must be less than 45%. The loan not only helps the client with their immediate financial needs, but it allows them the opportunity to make monthly loan payments to NWGF which are tracked by our servicing software and reported monthly to the credit reporting repository. These on-time monthly payments improve the clients’ credit score which makes them a better credit risk and touches their lives in many ways.
4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of how your solution is working to solve the problem.
A gentleman that lived in our homeless shelter attended our Ready to Rent class; he had several barriers in his way that were going to prevent him for renting. One of the barriers was income and not being able to pay rent of $350.00 a month. Once we went through his budget, he understood what his next step should be in order to not just rent but to be able to afford rent and his other bills. It has been 4 months since he attended this class and this week he picked up an application for our deposit loan. He has a full time job and can afford an apartment with a $800.00 monthly payment; he still has money left for all utilities and other bills. Best of all, he has a place that he can be proud to call home.
5a. Too many people in the U.S. have unmet needs for financial products and services. How is your work reaching a population(s) that is currently underserved? If it is not reaching an underserved population yet, how might it in the near future?
NeighborWorks Great Falls has also worked with clients that are not bankable; we do this by financial coaching, counseling and education. This program is designed to help people find workforce housing in a market where rent is very often more than a person's paycheck. The rental education and loan are available to families and individuals of any income.
5b. Please specify if the population you are reaching is underserved due to any of the following characteristics:
other (please specify on question 5a)
6. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?
The city of Great Falls and United Way are working on programs that identify those that are in need of financial help and ways to help them prosper in this program. Their work includes living conditions of rental properties and homelessness. NeighborWorks Great Falls is the only organization that has implemented a program of this type to assist people in obtaining quality and affordable homes.
7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?
We are currently past our initial steps of rollout on this project; we held 1 education course attended by 9 people. Each person successfuly attended all 3 classes and received certification. The next education class is being scheduled. Once we have had a few more classes, we will be able to start tracking the impact this program has made.
8a. Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling your impact?
To sustain this program we hope to bring data to landlords and property managers proving the value of this program to them and asking for their support of the program. We are also looking at our local collage and university, local business, and our Air Force base as partners in this project with us. After lengthy conversations with each, they have indicated the need for this program and desire to join us in our efforts.
8b. If applicable, which of the following scaling strategies have you launched?
Large Scale Partnerships
9. Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?
For this program to be successful it will require financial funding support from our partners. NeighborWorks believes that with continuous classes we will be able to build data to show landlords and businesses that our program is beneficial and worth the investment in our community.
10. Team: What is the current composition of your team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?
Currently NeighborWorks has 1 HomeOwnership Manager and 2 Counselors. 1 counselor in Pre-Purchase (which includes rental) and 1 counselor in Post Purchase. Both are trained in the rental program and trained in financial coaching and counseling. As this position grows so will this department to include an instructor. NeighborWorks has board support along with an Executive Director and 10 other trained employees.
How did you hear about this challenge?