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Montana's homeWORD Wins St. Louis Fed's Innovation Award; Group To Be Honored at Exploring Innovation Conference May 9-11


ST. LOUIS – A Missoula, Mont.-based affordable housing development group has been named the recipient of the 2011 Innovation Award sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis’ Community Development division and NeighborWorks®America.

HomeWORD will be recognized as part of the 2011 Exploring Innovation Conference from May 9 -11.  In addition to the St. Louis Fed, this year’s conference is co-sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

The Innovation Award acknowledges exemplary practices in the community development field.  For 2011, the award honors a community development corporation that recognizes the green economy as an important aspect of the future of community development, as well as demonstrates a commitment to funding initiatives that promote affordable green housing.

Community development corporations from across four Federal Reserve Bank districts ? Atlanta, Dallas, Minneapolis and St. Louis ? competed for the award, the first time it has been offered.

"The Fed is pleased to partner with NeighborWorks to recognize innovative approaches to community development,” said Glenda Wilson, assistant vice president of the St. Louis Fed’s Community Development division.  “It is our hope that by showcasing the work of homeWORD, other organizations will be encouraged to develop innovative ways to develop and finance community development projects in their communities.”

As of 2010, homeWORD had completed 11 projects totaling 187 units in Missoula, Billings and Lewistown that model innovative design and development, including the construction of the state of Montana’s first straw bale homes.  Its newest development, Solstice-Confluence, will have 34 units of affordable housing slated for completion in October 2011.  This project was the first in Montana to combine low income housing tax credits and new markets tax credits (with the assistance of U.S. Bank offices in Missoula, St. Louis, Los Angeles and Seattle); was the first in the state to receive a mixed-use grey water system permit; and is the state’s first commercial/affordable housing mixed-use development to be receiving LEED Gold certification.  To view a video about homeWORD and its Solstice-Confluence project, see

“I am absolutely honored for homeWORD to be receiving this award,” said Heather McMilin, the organization’s Housing Development Director.  “We could not have pulled this project together as successfully as we did without a great amount of patience and trust from our partners, including but not limited to NeighborWorks Montana, U.S. Bank and other public and private funders.  This award helps homeWORD properly recognize the partners that helped us bring Solstice-Confluence to life."

The 2011 award consists of two components:  a full scholarship, funded by NeighborWorks America, to attend the Atlanta NeighborWorks Training Institute from Aug. 8-12, 2011, as well as a full scholarship to attend the St. Louis Exploring Innovation conference.

"NeighborWorks America is delighted to support the Federal Reserve Bank's "Exploring Innovation" Conference by offering this prize honoring innovation in affordable housing,” said Steve Hermes, NeighborWorks public affairs and communications advisor.  “We are pleased that the prize will go to such a deserving organization--homeWORD of Missoula, MT.  Their project is a great example of innovation in affordable housing: innovative financing, innovative construction, and innovative program planning and design.  Their work should serve as inspiration and a model for all CDCs to aspire to.”

The two other finalists, who will also be recognized May 11 during the conference’s closing keynote presentation, were the St. Louis County Office of Community Development and Habitat for Humanity St. Louis.  The St. Louis County Office of Community Development, in partnership with Laclede Gas Company and the Meyer Company, launched a first-of-its-kind energy study to determine the most energy-efficient, yet cost-effective way to build new construction homes.  Habitat for Humanity St. Louis has evolved it home building program from being Energy Star certified to achieving the LEED Platinum standard, becoming the largest developer of single family detached residential housing certified to LEED platinum standards, according to U.S. Green Building Council statistics.