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Housing family

Missoula has a housing crisis. New housing stock development is not keeping pace with population growth; rents and ownership costs have outstripped incomes.

Missoula has grown steadily at 1-2% for 100 years. To meet that regular population increase, over the last 10 years Missoula added about 500-600 new dwelling units per year, but this has not been enough to stop the disproportionate rise in rent and single family purchase costs.

New housing units and existing market-rate homes are financially out of reach for many Missoulians. Over a third of Missoula households are paying more than 30% of their income for housing, leaving them struggling to pay for necessities including heating, food and health care. Construction costs have pushed the price of a new free-standing single family home beyond the reach median income households. Developing additional low-rent housing requires community commitment and government subsidies.

The City of Missoula recently adopted a new housing policy that recognizes the need to use our existing water, sewer, streets and other infrastructure efficiently to lower costs and preserve open space. Implementation of this policy will require decisions affecting neighborhoods to translate principles into specific planning and zoning decisions.

How can we provide homes for everyone that fit household budgets?

“In My Backyard: Equitable Homes for All” offers a two-part series of free public meetings designed to explore two essential questions in meeting our housing crisis: 1. How do we reduce the cost of financing housing and 2. where do we put them? The Missoula League of Women Voters and the Missoula Home Coalition are hosting these meetings. Both meetings begin at 7 p.m. in the Missoula Public Library.

Part One on Wednesday, Oct. 30, examines financing tools available to reduce development costs of rental and owner-occupied homes. Understanding how these tools work will help us use them effectively, efficiently and creatively in meeting the community’s housing needs. Kaia Peterson of NeighborWorks Montana will explain public resources available in Missoula to lower the cost of housing for renters and homeowners. Veronica Stevens of Clearwater Credit Union will explain how these financing tools work for renters and first-time homebuyers. Barbara Callaghan of First Security Bank will explain how the tools work in building new housing developments, and Tyson O’Connell of Rocky Mountain Development Group will discuss other tools available elsewhere that could be used here.

Part Two on Wednesday, Nov. 6, focuses on the question of where Missoula can add homes. One of the principles in the city’s new housing policy is equitable distribution of all types of housing throughout the community. What would additional housing look like? Where in the neighborhood would it go? After a brief presentation on the variety of housing types, people will work in small groups on a housing plan for a hypothetical neighborhood. Each group will address the questions: what qualities of existing neighborhoods should be preserved; where can additional housing units go; what are the opportunities and constraints?

Step one in shaping our housing future is understanding the challenges and opportunities Missoula faces. The League of Women Voters and the Missoula Housing Coalition invite Missoula residents to come to “In My Backyard: Equitable Homes For All” to learn about and grapple with the challenges of meeting the housing needs of a growing Missoula.

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Nancy Leifer and Nancy Maxson are co-presidents of the League of Women Voters Missoula. 

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