Missoula is facing a housing crisis that has caused drastic increases in home and rental prices, causing countless families and individuals to be priced out of the housing market. Our mission at Habitat for Humanity of Missoula is to create strength, stability, and self-reliance through shelter and we are determined to take on a leading role in combating the housing crisis.
In order to do this, we must address the 5 L’s of construction: Labor, Lumber, Lots, Laws and Lending.
Increases in the costs of lumber and the labor shortage in Missoula is significantly contributing to the increase in the cost of home construction. As a way to combat these two cost drivers, Habitat has been exploring new ways to build faster, while still maintaining the affordability that is desperately needed in our community.
Lots and Laws are two elements of the 5 L’s of construction that are prohibiting Habitat from increasing production. With the cost of land drastically increasing, as well as very low availability, Habitat has been struggling to secure lots for new construction that comply with the zoning requirements. While we have a list of donors willing to donate their larger backyards for additional housing ownership, the current zoning laws prohibit us from doing so.
Through our research, we discovered a higher demand for single person homes than nuclear family homes. To match need to demand, it’s time for us to change tactics and increase development to add as many affordable homes to the market as possible. Habitat is advocating for new zoning laws, to increase homeownership on smaller lots by using townhomes, condos, and multi-plexes.
It may take years for the inflation in the housing market to level out, however, families and individuals need our help now. Affordable housing combats inflation in more ways than one. According to Habitat International, “Greater tax generation, creation of jobs, opportunities for economic development, increased job retention and productivity, and the ability to address inequality; all are among the economic benefits of increased access to quality, affordable housing”. Rising housing prices will only continue to push inflation measures upward.
We don’t have enough housing to support the growing community and now working-class families are paying the price. Missoula has 1,138 individuals and 400 children at-risk of not having stable shelter. While new housing developments are being constructed around town, they are still out of the affordability range, leaving out the majority of at-risk individuals.
Incentives for the construction of affordable housing should be a priority for policy makers and community partners dedicated to helping solve the housing crisis. Here at Habitat, we are increasing production each year to supply the community with more affordable housing, however we cannot do it alone. This is where lending comes into play, with the help of our grantors, in-kind sponsors and community donors, we will be able to continue to increase our programming to help as many individuals as possible.
Our purpose as a community is to lift those up who need a hand and place them on a solid foundation of hope for the future. While the other drivers of inflation are set to ease in the coming months, the shortfall in housing isn’t going anywhere unless policymakers and the community come together to create lasting change. Every individual in our community that has experienced displacement deserves to have their voices heard.