Unmet needs: City looks to earmark proceeds from sale of surplus properties

Council member Julie Armstrong on Wednesday suggested earmarking the proceeds from the Franklin Street property to establish a mitigation fund, allowing renters with Section 8 vouchers to rent from traditional landlords who require additional security. (Missoula Current file photo)

Members of the Missoula City Council on Wednesday agreed to sell a small piece of surplus property to an adjacent landowner, and one council member is looking to earmark the proceeds to establish a mitigation fund for renters holding Section 8 vouchers.

The 2,400-square-foot lot, located on Franklin Street, is well below the minimum lot size allowed for development. The owners of an adjacent four-plex are looking to purchase the parcel to straighten their boundary lines.

The parcel was appraised at $10,300.

“That property would have to be aggregated with other property to be developable in any way,” said Mike Haynes, director of Development Services. “We had some good comps because there’s quite a bit of former Mountain Water property that’s now Missoula Water property. Many are small pieces like this that aren’t developable by themselves.”

The number of city-owned parcels stemming from the Mountain Water acquisition remains uncertain, though the city is working to log them. In the weeks ahead, the council may look at ways to apply the proceeds from the sale of other surplus parcels.

Whether it goes to housing needs or property tax relief – or back into the general fund – remains to be seen.

Council member Julie Armstrong on Wednesday suggested earmarking the proceeds from the Franklin Street property to establish a mitigation fund, allowing renters with Section 8 vouchers to rent from traditional landlords who require additional security.

“The housing division is trying to establish a couple different diversion initiatives that need flexible cash,” said Armstrong. “For a lack of a mitigation fund, there are six to eight folks with vouchers that cannot rent because there’s not a rent mitigation fund in place. This type of flexible cash would be good for that.”

While several council members supported the idea in concept, they agreed that it warranted a wider discussion and, perhaps, a new city policy on earmarking the sale of surplus property.

At the same time, several also expressed concern over the changing economic climate at the federal level and how that may impact local government in the years ahead.

“I like the idea and I’m willing to collaborate with you,” council member Gwen Jones told Armstrong. “Every once in a while, we get a little freebie like this that comes through, and it’s nice having a little flexibility to do something we agree is a good thing with it.

“But also, five to 10 years down the road, we could be in a very different financial situation where we need every penny we have in a different atmosphere.”