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Current Events: Affordable housing plans, Currents Center expansion

Missoula housing construction
Posted at 9:56 AM, May 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-30 12:35:08-04

MISSOULA - This edition of Current Events with Missoula Current founding editor Martin Kidston takes a look at how Missoula wants to make it more appealing for developers who want to build affordable housing.

“They took a step last week to try and move in that direction. Everybody knows the cost of labor has gone up, the cost of materials has gone up, driving up the cost of housing. You have the whole market influence here. They're trying to get their arms around the cost of housing here in Missoula and they’re diving deep into their housing policy to try and go in that direction,” Kidston explained.

“Last week they began to explore incentives to offer developers in exchange for something else. By incentives, I mean doing this for that, such as giving up right-of-way for permitted developers for perhaps to build more density or to build higher in exchange for a set number of affordable housing units. Those units would be affordable for a set number of years. The process is underway.”

"There's a couple different areas, and among them is the cost of land. The city could consider subsidizing the cost of land for development. They could look at subsidizing the cost of utilities. They could look at reducing parking requirements. They could look at allowing developers to increasing density or building heights. All this would come with a different type of formula so that a certain incentive would come with a certain number of housing units that they would have to deliver that are affordable for a certain number of years,” Kidston continued.

“It's a complex blend of this and that. They don't want to over promise, and they don't want to over-deliver. They need to make sure they get what they want out of this but also helping the developers with the cost of providing that. It's not easy providing affordable housing. When they do so they need to get something in exchange to make that a reality.”

Meanwhile, another step has been taken to add to the Currents Events Center in Missoula.

“The city council officially adopted the plan, or the vision for the design for the rec center. That typically means they are allowing the backers of the rec center to begin their fundraising process. Everybody knows if you are going to go out to raise money you need a plan in hand and this plan has a vision of what this rec center could become,” Kidston explained.

“It's a 60,000 square foot addition at the Currents Center on McCormick Park. We'll see how successful this fundraising effort is. Last week's decision had nothing to do with funding. By adopting the vision, they weren't adopting any funding mechanism so it's simply a vision and discussions of funding will come down the road.