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City of Missoula eyes new housing goals, incentives in new fiscal year

Villagio Construction
Posted at 11:07 AM, Jun 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-16 13:07:25-04

MISSOULA - The city’s housing office checked off a number of achievements last year and is setting its sights on the new fiscal year, where it aims to aid development in the Riverfront Triangle and reform city codes to make housing construction an easier process.

Over the coming weeks, department heads will present their budgetary requests to the City Council, which will adopt the new FY23 budget in August. This week, various officials detailed their successes and goals for the new year, including the housing department.

“In the last fiscal year, we accomplished a lot,” said Eran Pehan, director of the city’s Office of Community Planning, Development and Innovation. “Some of that involved the purchase of land and partnering with the private sector on innovating new development models as identified in our adopted housing policy as a key strategy.”

Last year, the city successfully purchased the Bridge Apartments, preventing the displacement of 20 tenants while securing the property as permanently affordable. It also sealed the deal with Ravara LLC to develop the former White Pine Sash site on Scott Street.

That project will deliver around 70 permanently affordable housing units in a community land trust and bring several hundred apartments to market, along with additional commercial space.

“Looking forward into the next fiscal year, we want to continue to focus on this goal by positioning the Sleepy Inn site for redevelopment, either through private development or a public-private partnership,” said Pehan. “That will help us achieve our stated goals in that area for housing and redevelopment.”

Pahan said her department will also provide the necessary tools to develop the Riverfront Triangle. It also will plan for the development of the Payne Block in downtown Missoula.

The roots laid this fiscal year are expected to begin bearing fruit in FY23. The Missoula Redevelopment Agency invested in a number of projects, including the Villagio and Trinity projects, which together will bring 400 permanently affordable apartments to the market when they open next year.

“In addition to those MRA investments, the Affordable Housing Trust Fund has recommended funding for more than $1.5 million to shore up the Villagio and Trinity, and to make sure those projects move forward successfully,” Pehan said.

But the city’s housing policy focuses on more than subsidized housing, and this next year the city plans to implement new housing incentives. Those are intended to stimulate the creation of affordable homes through new programs and regulations.

The heavy lift of reforming city code will also begin in FY23, Pehan said.

“We’ll be moving into our goal in the next fiscal of completing the first phase of that, which will include the creation and adoption of a uniform development ordinance,” she said. “That will take all these codes, administrative manuals and policies and bring them into a single document to remove any conflict, and increase clarity and predictability for the development community.”