Missoula realtors’ report finds residents want government to address affordable housing

As of July, the year-to-date median home sales price in Missoula was $249,000.

By Martin Kidston

More than 60 percent of Missoula County residents believe local governments should get serious about addressing the city’s lack of affordable housing, according to poll results released this week by the Missoula Organization of Realtors.

The figures also suggest that 72 percent of those polled believe incentives, including tax breaks and fee reductions, should be offered to developers who are willing to build housing for residents on a low to moderate income.

MOR spokesman Sam Sill said his organization commissioned the survey of 400 residents in Missoula County to gain a better understanding of community preferences and concerns regarding housing issues.

“The residents of Missoula have said pretty clearly the cost of home ownership and the cost of housing is too high,” said Sill. “It looks like they’re ready for local governments to take proactive steps to address it.”

At its annual housing presentation earlier this year, MOR announced that home prices had climbed for the fifth straight year while rental prices ticked up in nearly all categories.

As of July, the year-to-date median home sales price in Missoula was $249,900. The figure marks an all-time high and stands well beyond what a typical Missoula family earning a median income can afford.

MOR attributed the spike in costs to a limited housing supply.

“We believe the data indicates that Missoula County residents want a housing supply that offers diverse options at affordable prices,” Sill said. “Above all, it’s clear that residents want the community to work together towards solutions.”

According to the survey, 69 percent of those polled said the cost of a home was too high, and 67 percent said apartment rentals were too high.

To address the problem, 62 percent believe affordable housing should be a high priority for local government, and 72 percent favored incentives such as tax breaks and fee reductions for developers to build affordable housing.

Of those polled, 57 percent favored reducing regulations and fees on builders and developers, believing it could create more housing options across the county.

Still, 59 percent said it was important to protect open space and 58 percent believe it was important to reduce congestion – both being issues that come into play in local housing regulations.

The survey also polled residents on community preferences. Nearly 80 percent sought to live in a detached single-family home with a yard. Roughly half of residents want a community with larger lots and bigger houses, while the other half wanted smaller lots with smaller houses within walking distance to amenities.

Sill said the findings there came as a surprise.

“There’s been a misconception for some time now that a big majority of people want to live in a neighborhood with smaller lots, smaller houses oriented more toward walking than driving,” Sill said. “The residents are actually pretty much split down the middle on what makes an ideal community. For us, that really speaks to the importance of having an all-of-the-above housing policy for the community.”

Contact reporter Martin Kidston at info@missoulacurrent.com