Missoula’s Central African Refugees Face Housing Issues and Many More Muslim Refugees Are On The Way
Will Missoula, Montana become the new St Paul, Minnesota? In Minnesota, many foreign born Middle Eastern and East African immigrants including Somalis out number the American born citizens 2 to 1?
If 150 Muslim refugees are heading for Missoula where will they live? That is what many people in Missoula are asking. With record home sale prices, and most rentals booked with college students, where are the immigrants suppose to find homes?
The Congolese from Central Africa that have recently arrived in Missoula have no credit record, and what vetting process has been done by the government is off-limits to landlords, property managers, and anyone else. So the question is, who is going to rent to them?
The Congolese family of six that arrived Aug. 18th is now in temporary housing and a second family consisting of a mother, father and five children (one an infant) is scheduled to arrive anytime. With stability obviously the key to success, temporary housing does not seem to be the greatest idea.
Many landlords that do have openings have been reluctant to rent to the immigrants because once the 90-day government grant for housing runs out, who will pay the rent? Hopefully the immigrants will have jobs by then, but as one property owner said, “Who knows?”
With no credit history, background check and no jobs when they arrive it is a tough decision to make. Many want to help, but they don’t know what they are getting into.
One landlord told us, Housing is tight right now in Missoula and most renters feel at least with a background check there is some sort of idea what the renter’s history is with paying their bills.
It is the job of the local resettlement agency, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) to help them secure both housing and jobs as quickly as possible. But so far, they have hit a brick wall in Missoula.
“We do have significant financial support to get refugees into permanent housing” (IRC) director, Molly Carr says, but things are going slowly so far. Landlords can be picky right now with University students taking up a good portion of the rentals.
The International Rescue committee is the richest of the nine federal contractors with an annual income in 2014 of $688,920,920 and $454 Million of that comes from the taxpayer.
But the IRC refuses to co-sign the housing rental agreements with the refugees that are being placed in Montana. They say that the goal is to get them to be self-sufficient and integrated, Co-signing is a contradiction to self-sufficiently.
Most Missoula landlords still have mortgages on property that they have some sort of lien against. They need to get their bills paid, too. It’s really a financial situation, they would like to help but it is a business and you want to cut down your risk.
Why didn’t the government and the resettlement agency take this into consideration before they volunteered the city in taking refugees? And why can’t they co-sign? You know, put some skin in the game. That is the big question Missoula property owners and residents are asking.
One landlord that has several properties in Missoula pointed out that nobody contacted him and asked him about the rental environment in Missoula. “I could have warned them and given them some advice before bringing families into town, especially this time of year. If I would have known, I could have saved them a lot of time and energy.”