Listening to the presenters at Wednesday’s City Council Committee of the Whole meeting regarding rental problems in Missoula, it’s easy to understand the deep frustration felt by current renters and those seeking rentals.

Matt Mellott, Commercial Real Estate Advisor with Sterling CRE Advisors provided some sobering statistics on rental availability.

“A recent snapshot was taken in middle of May of this year,” said Mellott. “You can see that as Montana (James, with Division of Community Planning) mentioned earlier, we're at point 0.3% for apartment vacancy in Missoula, which is effectively a non functioning market. I mean, you can barely do turnover at a vacancy rate that low. So you can look at numbers, they don't mean anything, but what this is, it's basically putting a number to what we already know which is apartments are really hard to find in Missoula, if you're a renter.”

Andrea Davis, Executive Director of Homeword provided more statistics.

“We look at the current statistics in Missoula County, where the median home owner income is around $72,000, but the income to afford the current market or the current median home price of $430,000 is double what the current homeowner wages are. Just to put that into perspective, I think about this. “I've owned my home since 2005 here in Missoula, and I think about what I pay in my mortgage, compared to what people are paying for a one and two bedroom rent. That's dramatic difference we've seen in a 15 year period here in Missoula, and I think these numbers really demonstrate that.”

Davis also had a story from a personal friend about the difficulties in Missoula’s rental market.

“It was from a friend of mine who is now a real estate agent and her clients called for information about pricing of single family homes as rentals,” she said. “Her neighbor who owns a local business and they live in the Lewis and Clark neighborhood. Their home just had a 20% increase in rent and they already paid $2,000 a month, so now they pay almost $2,500 in rent. It's really just astronomical.”

Mellott said higher density housing could be one answer to the housing dilemma.

“People are very open to different kinds of housing,” he said. “I know density isn't always well received in some neighborhoods, but there are many as well with families that would be well served with higher density starter housing, as they get their basically financial house in order and start to get into the home ownership world.”

For a list of renter support programs from the City of Missoula website, click here. For help from the State of  Montana, click here.


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