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New urban trend: City to consider ‘pod-style’ housing project off Scott Street

City officials this week recommended that a “pod-style” communal living project planned near Scott Street limit the bedrooms to one resident per room in accordance with city zoning requirements.

The 46-unit project is intended to provide attainable housing, capitalizing off a new housing trend popular in larger cities where housing costs have become an issue.

Julie Landis, In2itive Architecture, said it reflects the audience they hope to accommodate with the Ponderosa Village project, planned near West Broadway at the intersection of Scott and West Pine streets.

“It’s kind of a co-housing arrangement or pod-style living where it’s kind of a central kitchen, and then individual bedrooms, and then there is a communal space where people hang out, so it’s very similar to a dorm life scenario,” Landis said.

“And kind of pursuant to that, there’s an easy transition for someone to college to transition into a living unit like this. There’s hospitals down the road. There’s retail and restaurants in the area as well. So that’s the target audience, someone younger and an employee of the neighborhood.”

Back in February, Landis said the 250-square-foot, studio-sized bedrooms were estimated to have monthly rent of roughly $600.

Council member Heather Harp asked “how do you defend someone who wants to live with their partner” with the one-person-per-bedroom arrangement.

City of Missoula Permits and Land Use Manager Mary McCrea said it’s part of the terms and agreements residents will sign up for. She also said the zoning requirements are “odd” here because these aren’t the dwelling units that the zoning accounts for.

“These aren’t dwelling units. They’re intended to be bedroom suites, or like a large house or boarding house. And Title 20 specifically states that the density limits are to help address public facility and service demands and prevent overcrowding,” McCrea said. “I just don’t think they were considering that with this sort of pod living, but we’re implementing the standards we have.”

Council member Heidi West recommended flagging the zoning requirements.

“I can see only being able to rent to single people being an issue, and I don’t know how we would reconcile that, but I just want to flag that,” West said.

McCrea agreed, saying that while the housing looks to be a good product itself, the standards might not fit the new style of housing introduced to Missoula.

Landowners will be in charge of enforcing the lease agreement. But if there is overcrowding once the residences are developed, it might become an issue that the city will have to address.

“If a neighborhood is complaining it may come up as a violation that we would have to work with the property owner to bring it into compliance,” McCrea said.

Also discussed were plans for parking. Eleven parking spaces will be provided for the eventual 46-bedroom village. Four are required by zoning requirements.

The project will also include 46 covered and fenced bike spaces.

According to Marie Wilson, principal architect with In2itive Architecture, there will also be some on-street parking available that wasn’t included with the development.

Landis said they haven’t figured out whether they will prioritize certain spots for people or not.

“That’s an operational issue that hasn’t been fully ironed out yet. There’s not a firm agreement yet. I think if they are residents who might have special needs they might get priority to get a reserve spot,” Landis said. “Barring that they might end up becoming first come, first served.”

A public hearing is planned on Monday. Around $96,000 in tax increment financing was given to the $3.5 million project in February.