Black text on a white background with the quote "The only "home" my child has known is a hotel room."

Beyond Housing Affordability: Results from a Montana Evictions Project

In conjunction with a team of data analysts, MLSA has released a report titled “Montana Eviction Impact Report: Beyond Housing Affordability” and a compilation of interviews with Montanans facing eviction entitled “The Ripple Effect: A Sample of Personal Narratives.” The report provides a statewide assessment of 65 households who faced eviction in both rural and urban areas of Montana.

Montana is in the midst of a housing crisis, with 77% of Montanans viewing housing affordability as a serious problem. The eviction report team confirmed that housing in Montana is simply unaffordable for working class families, with 82% of families who faced eviction spending more than 30% of their income on rent. Of these, 49% spent more than 50% of their monthly income on rent. The team found that these families are already at the tipping point before an eviction, but that the impact of the eviction goes far beyond just housing, resulting in increased cost of housing, stress and anxiety contributing to job loss, increased rates of poverty, poorer physical health, and mental health disorders.

Key takeaways from the report include the following statistics:

  • 48% of households facing eviction had at least one child
  • Over half of the respondents spent more than 10% of their annual income on the cost of the eviction itself – a huge burden for families already struggling to meet basic expenses.
  • 100% experienced increased expenses before the eviction, including medical emergencies, added childcare expenses, domestic violence/divorce, or added elderly dependents.
  • Respondents reported additional up-stream social breakdowns: 17% had a death in the family; 18% had violence or abuse in the household; 12% had alcohol abuse in the household; 14% had a divorce or separation; and 69% had a mental illness in the household. For households with children, these events are considered Adverse Childhood Experiences, which are linked to chronic health problems and mental illness in adolescence and adulthood. At least 5 of the top 10 leading causes of death are associated with ACEs.
  • 30.7% of respondents were in unstable and at-risk housing after the eviction process, including 26% of households with children. 18% were homeless as a result of the eviction.

The report includes interviews and direct quotes from Montanans facing eviction, including:

  • When asked what factors led to the eviction, one respondent noted that “my son lives with me, and he has terminal cancer” and another replied that the “landlord doubled the rent with 10 days’ notice from $1,200 to $2,400.”
  • Survey respondents described the impact of facing an eviction on their families: “One of my children dropped out of school afterwards and did not finish high school” and “I attempted suicide 6 months after I moved.”
  • “A lot of people are moving in from out of state and developments are popping up that are just trying to capitalize on their income, but it’s imaginary scenarios. They are overpriced, who can afford $4,000 for rent, for a 2 bedroom? Most Montanans can’t compete with the economics from California or New York that have higher income levels.”
  • “It took all the funds I had for the storage units I had to rent and the U-Haul, plus I lost my food stamps because I had no rent but had to pay cash if I stayed anywhere.”
  • “The only reason we had a child was because we thought our rental situation was going to be long-term, and now, the only “home” my child has known is a hotel room.”

These survey respondents represent the working class that fuels our agricultural industry, food service, child and elder care, healthcare, and hospitality. When that working class can no longer pay for basic necessities, the economic engine stalls out for everyone in Montana.

If you are a reporter, MLSA has legal housing experts who are available to discuss the eviction process and the results of this eviction report. Feel free to reach out to Emma O’Neil at [email protected] to schedule an interview with a report team member.

If you are in need of legal services, you can apply online or by calling our HelpLine at 1-800-666-6899 Tuesday through Thursday from 9:00 am – 1:00 pm.


Full report:

Montana Eviction Impact Report: Beyond Housing Affordability

The Ripple Effect: A Sample of Personal Narratives