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Success Stories

Two Generations Partnering with USDA on Affordable Housing in Rural Montana Town

Mark McCann
Montana MFH Specialist Natalie Plummer and Sage Apartment owners Robbie Carpenter (C) and Vince Winterhalter (R).

The Sage Apartments is a 12-unit multi-family housing complex that provides quality, safe, and affordable housing for eligible seniors and persons with disabilities in a rural Harlowton, Montana.

“With the ongoing housing crisis, there are limited options in rural communities, and that is what these properties are built for, especially for elderly residents,” said Robbie Carpenter, owner of the Sage Apartments with her husband, Vince Winterhalter. “This collaboration with USDA Rural Development ensures we can provide housing for eligible low-income residents in Harlowton.”

The Sage Apartments truly has been a family affair for Robbie for nearly 50 years now. Built in the late 1970s by her father, the property passed to her mother and then to Robbie nearly 18 months ago. It has remained a point of pride all these years, keeping rents low so more of their Harlowton neighbors can afford to live here. 

Working with the property owners through its Multi-Family Housing Loan Guarantee Program, USDA has an impact here by contributing to monthly rent payments for residents, ensuring compliance with all applicable housing standards, and providing oversight so residents here have a safe, clean environment to call home.

Eligible residents contribute 30% of their monthly income toward rent and USDA contributes the remaining 70%. Property managers are required to comply with USDA and Fair Housing regulations, conduct annual visits to ensure the apartments are being maintained properly, and verify that no discrimination in housing is taking place. For additional oversight, USDA conducts visits every three years to review tenant files and assess management practices.

“This is not just inexpensive living, it is also quality housing, and because we work with Rural Development we must comply with fair housing requirements,” said Winterhalter.

 He considers the relationship between USDA and private owners of these multi-family housing properties crucial and thinks it is a model that makes sense. And with the amount of funding USDA contributes monthly toward residents’ rent, Winterhalter considers it “a bargain.”

The impact is long-term and broad by ensuring eligible low-income residents living in the Sage Apartments have an affordable, safe place to call home in Harlowton.

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