MISSOULA — It’s no secret that Missoula, and much of Western Montana, is experiencing a shortage of housing.
A report published in October by Sterling CRE Advisors showed Missoula’s apartment rental vacancy at 1.04%. That's compared to the third quarter of 2020, which saw a 1.27% vacancy rate.
Not only that, but the average ask lease rate for quarter three of 2021 is $1,064 as compared to 2020's $912 — a $152 difference. And despite 1,145 building permits issued in 2021, a 203% increase over last year, demand continues to outstrip supply in the Garden City.
It's a problem leaders are trying to tackle. One idea was on the table Thursday at the Missoula County Commission meeting was turning Larchmont Golf Course into affordable housing.
Missoula County commissioners decided not to move forward with a feasibility report on the Larchmont Golf Course development project, and instead directed an exploration into other county-owned land for potential housing development.
Missoula County Commissioner Josh Stotnick expressed concern over Missoula’s housing crisis, noting the proposal could take 15 to 20 years to get housing online.
“We are trying to meet national demand with local supply, which can never fit. I’m concerned we will never ever be able to build our way out of this, we are going to have to figure out some other type of intervention so that the rise in the wages actually parallels housing costs, or we bring down housing costs through some type of other invention we have not yet invented, to a more parallel rise in wages.” - Missoula County Commissioner Josh Stotnick
The county will now move forward by analyzing other county-owned land and see what might be appropriate to build on.
“We already have a lands evaluation process underway looking county wide at county-owned parcels," Commissioner Dave Strohmaier said.
Missoula County Director of Economic and Land Development Emily Brock will continue to lead that project, and expand on it.
“What I’m hearing you say is you’d prefer me to continue with my plan to analyze all of the county assets," she said. "Obviously the city is not part of that project, although I’ll invite them to join me. After we do that, we can see if Larchmont rises to the top.”
The Larchmont proposal could still be revisited at a later date. This course of action came after the commissioners heard public comments about the proposal.
“Larchmont is a place of community, met a lot of friends there, enjoy going there all the time, so I’d hate to see that disrupted," one community member said Thursday.
Some of the people who spoke were in favor of the proposal, citing Missoula’s growing housing crisis-but others called it a plain bad idea.
“It looks really big and bold, but the third b is definitely there too — -ad. Bad for the tax payer, bad for the community land owner, and it’s just kind of against what I think people move to Missoula for and Montana for. - Matts Larson.
Missoula County Commissioners say there will be plenty of time for public comment as they move forward with this analysis. Brock said she will bring more information back to the commissioners during the next budget cycle.