COMMUNITY CONNECTION: Mont. residents forge strong bonds with ROC purchase

LOLO, MONT.  – When homeowners purchased Two Rivers Community on Feb. 29 for $5.35 million, not only did they acquire the land beneath their neighborhood, but Board President Thomas Evans said they gained a life-long connection with each other.

“It’s the simplicity of knowing your neighbors and being comfortable to ask for a cup of sugar,” said Evans, who has lived at Two Rivers for three years. “Before the purchase, you would see people who were staying in their lanes, head down and trying to stay afloat. And there were people who I didn’t even know lived here. But now we have common ground and an understanding for each other.”

The 59-home community sits in Lolo, a suburban town in western Montana about 20 minutes from Missoula. The community is adjacent to Travelers’ Rest State Park, home to diverse plants and animals, a traditional meeting place of Native American tribes and best known as an archaeologically verified campsite of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. It’s where the explorers stopped in September 1805 and started on their return journey in the summer of 1806.

“This isn’t just about money or business, it’s about people’s lives. … To be able to have this togetherness, it kind of pulls at the heart strings.”

– Thomas Evans, Board President

Two Rivers residents purchased their community from its previous owner, Dean Bohnsack, who spent three decades as owner of the property and grew to know generations of homeowners.

“I bought the property 30 years ago thinking it would be a good development property,” he said. “But then I got to know the people. Having owned it for so long, I know the kids, parents, grandparents, and now even great-grandkids.” 

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Thomas Evans, Board President and Lynette Bryant, Board Treasurer, celebrate the residents’ purchase of Two Rivers Community on Feb. 29., 2024

Two Rivers is the 323rd ROC nationwide and the 21st resident owned community in Montana, and Evans said working with NeighborWorks® Montana was instrumental throughout the purchase process. The community is looking forward to improving the aging water and sewer infrastructure.

“Good things happen with the professionalism and knowledge of NeighborWorks Montana,” Evans said. “With their coaching, things have happened and in the next five to eight years, people will see the full picture of all of our hard work and success.”

NeighborWorks Montana, a ROC USA Certified Technical Assistance Provider, guided the homeowners through the purchase and will continue to support them as they build the skills and leadership to manage their community. The Montana Board of Housing and a Missoula County CDBG RLF grant supported the purchase of Two Rivers.

After the purchase, the lot rent increased 38 percent, from $400 to $550 and it will increase another $110 during the second year. But even with the increase, the rent is still a fraction of what it would cost to rent a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in Lolo. The average price is between $1,200 and $1,600 per month, according to listings on Zillow.com.

Evans is excited about the future of the ROC and the unity of the neighborhood.

“This isn’t just about money or business, it’s about people’s lives,” Evans said. “For some people, they have lived there for many years – half of my lifetime – this is all they have. To be able to have this togetherness, it kind of pulls at the heart strings.”