No more visits: Missoula Housing Authority launches online process for clients

The Missoula Housing Authority on Friday entered the 21st century by making its housing applications available online, negating a client’s need to visit the agency in person to complete an application for rental housing.

The new platform, developed by Yardi, modernizes the agency’s subsidized housing program.

“We’ve been wanting to do it for a while, but it was a question of reaching a tipping point where it’s cost effective,” said Jim McGrath. “It’s a great service for clients out there, and it should be a good efficiency step for us. It became time to make that shift.”

McGrath on Friday said the new platform enables clients to submit their housing applications online and check their status on the waiting list for subsidized housing. They can also update their status and family profiles.

“Right now it will cover all of our HUD-subsidized programs,” McGrath said. “In a few months or weeks, you’ll also be able to directly apply to our affordable housing properties.”

The agency’s homeless program will still require clients to begin the process using the new coordinated entry system.

McGrath said roughly 2,000 people are waiting for subsidized housing in Missoula, a figure that far exceeds the local supply of available units. For those entering the system, the new digital platform will simplify the application process, even if it doesn’t address the city’s housing needs.

“In this day and age, there’s an expectation by a lot of folks out there to be online and check their status by themselves,” McGrath said. “The old system was a great system and it did the job, but at some point in time, we’ve got to move into the future.”

The new platform, dubbed Missoula.House, is also mobile friendly, with apps available for both Apple and Android products.

While the agency won’t turn a client away over his or her lack of Internet access, McGrath said, those clients are encouraged to make use of the many free Internet services located around the city, including the Missoula Public Library and Missoula Aging Services.

“We’ll assist them getting the online access,” McGrath said. “There are places around town where you can get Internet access. The other thing is, if they’re currently working with another social service agency, I would suggest they ask them for assistance.”