After years of planning, Missoula County has approved and signed the deed needed to put an affordable housing project into motion, along with the services it will bring to the community.
The multi-million dollar Trinity development is planned for county property on Mullan Road and West Broadway, as well as a second site off Cooley Street, and is expected to break ground this spring.
It represents a collaboration between the city and county of Missoula, Blueline Development, the Missoula Housing Authority, Homeword and the Missoula County Sheriff’s Department.
“This fantastic project is the result of that partnership,” said Commissioner Josh Slotnick. “Only because these other entities put their shoulder behind the collective wheel and added resources to it that it can actually happen.”
Missoula County initially agreed in 2019 to donate around 4 acres of public property near the county jail to the project. But as the plans progressed, the county increased its contribution to 5.2 acres.
Commissioner Dave Strohmaier said the Missoula County sheriff agreed to the land contribution, seeing the end project as a step in reducing recidivism and incarceration rates.
“He (the sheriff) really made the link between needing more jail space or keeping people from going to jail because they’re committing crimes related to the desperation of being homeless,” Strohmaier said. “I see this is a transformative project for the Missoula community.”
The Trinity project will provide roughly 202 units of affordable housing spread across both sites, along with wrap-around services. One-hundred homes off Mullan will be available for those earning between 0% and 70% area median income, or $44,000 for a family of two.
An additional 30 units at Mullan will include permanent supportive housing for those living with chronic homelessness. Those 30 apartments will have rental assistance and will serve those earning $0 to 50% area median income
While the affordability aspect of the project has drawn praise, it’s the services the development will include that has gained attention.
“As we learned at the temporary safe outdoor space, these types of wraparound services really work,” said Slotnick. “When we interact with people at the bottom and give them services and provide services, they actually move forward. It really does work.”
As planned, the project includes 3 separate buildings, including a 100-unit apartment complex and a 30-unit supportive housing facility. It will also include a navigation center offering counseling, community space, limited medical services, meal service and lockers.
The navigation center is intended to serve the homeless and other at-risk individuals. Such centers are considered best practice in providing support while serving individuals who have been living unsheltered or in encampments, and have barriers in accessing housing.
“We can get people out of homelessness and out of addiction and other terrible spots, if the resources needed are right there,” said Slotnick. “That’s what this navigation center will do and that’s what the supportive housing will do. This goes a long ways in addressing a super intense, chronic and intractable problem of homelessness.
Combined with the Low Income Housing Tax Credits and the land donation, the developer could save more than $700,000 in costs, allowing it to pass the savings on to future tenants. The City of Missoula also agreed to serve as a pass-through for $34 million in tax exempt bonds.
Chris Lounsbury, the county’s CAO, said signing the deed represented the last step in the process, clearing it to begin construction.
“The project will hopefully break ground in the not-so-distant future,” he said. “Their goal is to break ground late spring or early summer. It’s still a two-year development timeline.”