Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - On the KGVO Friday City Talk segment of Talk Back, the featured guest was Erin Pehan, Director of the City of Missoula’s Department of Community Planning, Development, and Innovation.

Pehan, accompanied in the studio by City of Missoula Communications Director Ginny Merriam, started off the program by sharing impressive numbers for building homes in the Missoula community.

“The good news, the headliner is that 2022 was another amazing year for homes and home development within our community,” began Pehan. “We saw a total of about 850 building permits for homes across our community and that comes after a banner year in 2021, where we saw 1,300 homes being built in our community.”

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Pehan pointed to the two largest projects that are set to open soon that will bring hundreds of new affordable housing units to Missoula.

“That really represents a couple of huge projects that we saw come through permitting last year,” she said. “The two affordable housing rental projects are the Bellagio and the Trinity which are bringing us combined over 400 apartments. They're both going to be available to the community really soon. If you drive by either site, the Trinity being just off West Broadway and the Bellagio off of Scott Street near the interstate, you'll see they look almost ready to occupy, so they're finishing up final details inside. They're actually starting to meet with people on those wait lists and sign leases and get them ready to go.”

Pehan said moving the rental vacancy rate somewhere north of zero is exciting to see.

“The good news is we are building at a rapid pace, which means we're continuing to reach for kind of that gold star of having enough homes in our community that we start to see prices come down a little bit, and we are seeing that in the rental realm,” she said. “We're seeing that vacancy rate creep up a little more from zero to two to three to four percent In addition we're seeing increases in rent stall a little bit which is exactly what we want to have happen.”

Pehan said one of the most important pieces to the affordable housing puzzle is the lack of homes for sale in Missoula at this time.

“What we're still struggling with is homes for sale,” she said. “Last year, of that 850 number of homes being built, fewer than 170 of those were single family homes for sale. So the vast majority of construction that's happening is still around rentals. And that's something we are continually trying to crack the nut on. We do get stuck in that supply and demand cycle which can be endlessly frustrating for us because right when we start to make some headway, we're getting enough apartments on the market that we're seeing rents kind of come down a little bit or hold steady and then investors say, ‘Oh, wait, hold, maybe we shouldn't build anymore right now that you know, our investments aren't quite paying off’. And then we see a little stall and then we lose that momentum that we've built.”

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