On the monthly City Talk segment on KGVO’s Talk Back show, Missoula Mayor John Engen fielded several questions from listeners on the subject of housing, primarily affordable housing.

Engen said Missoula was ‘discovered’ due to the fact that people can work remotely away from crowded cities.

“I tell people that Missoula was discovered, as it were, through the pandemic and I think the pandemic sort of exacerbated in that our numbers were low and I think we ended up getting a lot of attention nationally,” said Engen. “So once again, we've got folks who can telecommute; they can make a living in a place where they want to live in, where they're comfortable, so I think we're going to continue to see that sort of migration.”

Engen said the chief challenge for those moving to Missoula is, and has been for many years, that of housing.

“The challenge that comes with that and hasn't changed a great deal is housing,” he said. “So we're leaning hard into housing through not only our plan, but we have production plans around housing. We're doing a lot of support with regulatory reform and process reform. We’re in the process of hiring a deputy for our Office of Housing, Community Development and Innovation and that’s all about helping the folks who are building housing for humans to live in, do that work as effectively as possible.”

When asked specifically about affordable housing, Engen said the city is in the midst of planning several subsidized affordable housing developments.

“We're currently working with a developer on some city owned property on Scott Street,” he said. “We're also working to further clear the decks on some city owned property on the North Side for housing development. A couple hundred units of affordable housing are going up at the end of Scott Street near Interstate 90, so we're plugging away.”

Asked about the future creation of more mobile home parks, Engen said the economic law of supply and demand has meant the demise of some mobile home parks.

“We have some of the pressures of ‘economic eviction’ and that is, in some cases the land underneath those mobile homes is more valuable than the mobile homes or the rents that landowners are getting for them, so they’re razing those mobile homes and developing that land and displacing folks, and that's an issue that will continue over time.”

The City of Missoula presents a featured guest once a month for listeners to call with questions. Each guest is accompanied by City of Missoula Communications Director Ginny Merriam.


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