Missoula Current

(Martin Kidston) While this year's annual housing report presented trends similar to years past with its snapshot of rising home values and a limited inventory, it also offered glimmers of progress that bode well for affordable housing in Missoula.

Three large affordable housing projects have or will begin to open for leasing this spring, culminating years of work, financing and construction.

“We have over 500 new apartments coming online in the next year that have restricted rents,” said Karissa Trujilo with Homeword. “It means the rents are capped to ensure they're affordable for people making 40% to 60% of our area median income.”

Between the 200-unit Villagio project off Scott Street and the 202-unit Trinity project, which includes two locations, Missoula will introduce a decades-worth of affordable housing into the market this year.

The Villagio includes a range of two, three and four-bedroom apartments and is set to begin leasing this May.

“They'll provide family housing, filling a much needed gap in our community,” said Jim McGrath with the Missoula Housing Authority. “We also have 32 vouchers put into the program to guarantee that extremely low-income families will access that project.”

The Villagio and other affordable housing slated to open this year represent a focused effort by a number of partners to complete what's been described as financially challenging projects.

Tax increment provided by the Missoula Redevelopment Agency has helped, as has funding from various state and federal housing programs. The Trinity site off Mullan Road also included a land donation from Missoula County.

“Trinity will be coming online in phases,” said McGrath. “We have started leasing one of the buildings. As of today, 16 people have moved in. The next building will be ready soon.”

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Trinity represents a collection of scattered properties, including the Mullan site and a separate site off Cooley Street. The latter location includes two, three and four-bedroom units and is now leasing.

The Mullan property includes Maple Street Flats, which offers 100 units ranging from one to four bedrooms. Those should begin leasing in April. It also includes Blue Heron, which will provide 30 units reserved for permanent supportive housing.

“These will be chronically homeless and disabled folks,” said McGrath. “We're partnering with Partnership Health Center. They'll provide on-site services. The tenants will be enrolled in the Missoula Housing Authority's supportive housing program.”

Other projects are in the works, including a partnership between the city and Ravara LLC to provide around 70 income qualified condos and townhomes on a three-acre community land trust off Scott Street.

That project also will include several hundred market-rate apartments on six acres, along with a ranch of commercial offerings. However, the overall project is advancing slowly and a number of issues remain unfinished.

“The city and Ravara team continue to work together to determine the number of income-qualified units that can be provided on the community land trust acreage and the magnitude of the gap between what it costs to build the units and the sale price,” said Ellen Buchanan, director of the Missoula Redevelopment Agency. “The market rate development continues to move forward with design and financing models.”