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City Council committee awards $1.5M in federal funds to aid housing projects

Homeword also received $61,500 to purchase land near the Missoula Food Bank on Wyoming Street. The organization plans to place six tiny homes on the lot, with five of them targeted to those earning 80 percent of the area median income.

Members of the Missoula City Council approved $1.5 million in federal awards earmarked for affordable housing on Wednesday, including a 200-unit project planned by the Missoula Housing Authority and an expansion of the YWCA.

The eight projects approved for this year’s round of funds were selected by city staff and one council member from a list of proposals, each vying for grants provided by Housing and Urban Development.

Among the recipients, the Missoula Housing Authority will receive $745,000 to support a Northside development that will include 200 new affordable housing units. Of those, 24 units will be offered at 30 percent of the area median income and 175 units at 60 percent.

The project, slated for the north end of Scott Street, carries an estimated price tag of $36 million.

“By definition, it will have affordable units in the building,” said Colin Woodrow, a grants administrator with the city. “There’s going to be a different mix of incomes within the community that’s being built.”

Homeword also received $61,500 to purchase land near the Missoula Food Bank on Wyoming Street. The organization plans to place six tiny homes on the lot, with five of them targeted to those earning 80 percent of the area median income.

Roughly $350,000 in Community Development Block Grants will also go the YWCA to aid in its shelter expansion.

“They’re doing a facility expansion and constructing a fully accessible building providing 31 rooms and an additional 16, which are dedicated for domestic violence,” said Woodrow. “Six of those beds are dedicated specifically for families fleeing domestic violence.”

The projects were selected for funding after a round of scoring that looked at a number of criteria, including their benefit to low- and moderate-income residents, the project’s feasibility and the net increase in housing units, among others.

“We had robust debate and deliberations,” said council member Bryan von Lossberg. “Inherently, there’s some subjectivity in the process, but it was gratifying and reassuring to see the agreement once we got together to talk through how we scored these things. There’s an opportunity to move the needle.”

A community needs survey conducted earlier this year polled 545 residents from neighborhoods across the city, though three of the city’s 18 neighborhoods represented more than 30 percent of the total participation.

The survey identified several top city priorities, with affordable housing emerging atop the list. Infrastructure and business development rounded out the top three.

“As we’re all aware, the median price has been rising consistently, on average 4.5 percent each year,” said Woodrow, noting the current median price of $286,000. “It explains why Missoulians believe affordable housing is the most pressing need for our community.”

Woodrow said the federal funding will create 248 new housing units focused on low-income families or short-term shelter for homeless and at-risk populations. It will also provide 31 households with a source of safe drinking water.

An estimated 800 people will benefit from the funding, the city said.

“We’re expecting these funds will be able to produce a number of new units, more units of affordable housing than Missoula has seen in nearly a decade. We’ll also be able to help maintain and secure existing housing in the resident-owned community,” Woodrow said.