The housing affordability crunch continues to pose a serious threat to rural people and economies. Businesses across RCAC’s service area express that the lack of low-cost housing undercuts their ability to attract and retain employees, which in turn threatens small-town and rural area economies. Rural viability and community vitality are inextricably linked to the availability of safe and affordable housing.

RCAC partners with diverse public, private, nonprofit and Tribal housing developers, government agencies and community organizations to help them meet their affordable workforce housing development goals.

Since 2016, RCAC has worked in partnership with the Lake County Community Housing Organization (LCCHO) in Ronan, a city in scenic Lake County, Montana. Ronan is part of a group of small towns in the Mission Valley that includes Pablo, St. Ignatius and Charlo, which are located on the Flathead Reservation, home to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Indigenous people. Approximately 2,000 people live in Ronan, and many are extremely low-income. In recent years, the Flathead Lake tourist attraction gained significant popularity, while the COVID-19 pandemic prompted residents to move into the valley and work remotely, which drove up property values and exacerbated the housing shortage.

The Ronan Housing Authority, which shares staff and a common board with LCCHO, contacted RCAC for assistance as the local housing crisis peaked. Over 200 families were on the housing waiting list, while only one unit was available in the entire Mission Valley market area. A 36-unit Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) project LCCHO managed converted to home ownership, first for renters and then for income-eligible individuals. LCCHO needed new units to absorb the displaced tenants and some on its waitlist, but the small nonprofit lacked the staff, training and financial strength to attract investors. From 2018 to 2020, RCAC worked in tandem with LCCHO to secure funding, including a significant tax credit allocation that provided approximately 75 percent of project funding for Meadowlark Vista Apartments, a multifamily housing development. RCAC also agreed to provide LCCHO with staff time and technical training and to assume all financial risks associated with developing the new tax credit project.

While the 24 housing units were slated for completion in 2020, the pandemic caused cost overruns due to supply disruptions, price escalations, worker shortages and other complications. Contractors and sponsors’ efforts, along with eleventh-hour cost-saving measures overcame these obstacles. In 2021, the Montana Department of Commerce allocated an additional $210,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) gap financing to complete Meadowlark Vista Apartments.

Although Flathead Reservation still desperately needs more affordable housing for rural workers, Meadowlark Vista’s 24 families are happy to have a place they can now call home.


In addition to 24 apartment homes, the Meadowlark Vista development includes a computer bank, a community room, a property manager’s office, laundry facilities and a children’s play area. For the first time, LCCHO has space to host social service providers, job connection specialists and other enrichment services. Other amenities and common areas such as an outdoor barbecue space and community garden plots further encourage tenants to connect and build community. Another key project component was that units would be available for low-income households from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous backgrounds — a critical gap in a region where most housing providers exclusively serve Indigenous residents.

As of November 2021, all units at Meadowlark Vista Apartments are fully occupied. While LCCHO currently lacks an executive director, its board of directors ensures operational continuity. Although Flathead Reservation still desperately needs more affordable housing for rural workers, Meadowlark Vista’s 24 families are happy to have a place they can now call home.