The monthly City Club meeting was held on Monday via ZOOM in which city and county government officials discussed how an adequate supply of safe, affordable housing can be realized for Missoula’s growing population.

One of the panelists was Erin Pehan, Director of the City of Missoula Department of Community Planning, Development and Innovation. She summed up the purpose of the panel’s discussion.

“How is the city elevating housing as a key priority?” asked Pehan. “We have several things underway, first and foremost, a historic investment in a comprehensive code reform effort that the community will be undertaking over the course of the next several years. This comprehensive code reform effort is really looking at everything we do in terms of land use review and development and how we want to grow as a community to make sure that we have the tools that we need to actualize our goals and to meet the need of the developing community.”

One speaker was Emily Harris-Shears, Administrator, Affordable Housing Trust Fund for the City of Missoula, who spoke briefly about the land trust model.

“The affordable housing trust fund balance that we're working with this year is $1.3 million,” said Harris-Shears. "That's a combination of carry forward from the fiscal 21 fiscal year and the fiscal year 22 budget which allocated $700,000 in American rescue plan Act dollars."

Missoula County Commissioner Josh Slotnick said the housing situation in Missoula simply will not be solved by trusting market forces, but more help is needed to make housing available to more families and individuals.

“Clearly, if we leave our housing situation up entirely to the market, we won't get the diversity of housing created that our society actually needs, that people throughout different times of their lives need different types of housing,” said Commissioner Slotnick. “Unless we intervene in these markets that are very distorted, and that's what our (market) is, we won't get the kind of housing we need. So as all the presenters talked about, what we're all doing is intervening to make sure that there are houses that everyone can afford, everyone can attain it at 30 percent (of their annual income spent on housing.)"

Slotnick referenced a project currently under consideration that would combine all kinds of housing.

“This is a zoning (project) that's up for discussion right now for the next couple months,” he said. “We've made some great strides here using Form-based code as opposed to traditional segregation-by-use to make multifamily housing more available in areas that would have been traditionally only single family. Relying much more on design and form on how things fit and feel as opposed to straight segregation, looking at places like the university district or the Slant Streets. We may see duplexes next to a triplex next to a single family, but because of design, you can't really tell the difference when you're walking past and that's what that's what our effort would be towards.”

City Club brings a new community based topic each month. You can listen to the full meeting right here.

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