Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - One of the first chances for Missoula voters to see the two mayoral candidates side by side occurred at the Edgewater Hotel on Tuesday, as public sector executive Andrea Davis and City Councilor and businessman Mike Nugent shared the stage at the City Club Mayoral Debate.

In opening statements, Nugent provided some troubling statistics on the issue of home ownership in Missoula.

Discouraging Statistics on Home Ownership Revealed at Debate

“The national average for home ownership is over 60 percent, began Nugent. “The state average in Montana is over 60 percent, but in Missoula, we are down to 45 percent home ownership. The age demographic of 18 to 34 year-olds are more pessimistic about their ability to own a home than at any point in our history and that same group of 18 to 34 year olds, 68 percent of that group is spending more than what is considered financially responsible on housing.”

Affordability in housing was also a main theme of Andrea Davis, Executive Director of Homeword, an organization that helps people and families find affordable housing.

Both Candidates said Affordable Housing is a Huge Issue

“We both see what Missoulians are bringing forward in terms of the challenges that we are all facing,” began Davis. “Cost of living is a major issue. The issues that we just spoke about in terms of being able to obtain a rental home or a home for purchase are significant issues as is our access to childcare and property taxes. These things are basically making it so people that are learning here, retiring here, and working here aren't able to call Missoula home anymore.”

Another issue that was mentioned through questions from the audience was that of homelessness and the crime that can often occur in those areas.

Davis said help is needed for the homeless in behavioral health care, and some funds were provided through the recent legislative session in Helena.

“We were lucky in this legislative session to actually get $300 million for behavioral healthcare which will help us connect folks that are living unsheltered and using hard drugs so we can actually connect people to services and substance abuse,” she said. “That money is not to our community yet, right? So we need to keep putting the pressure on the administration and the commission that they have established to make sure that our communities get this (money).”

Both Candidates had Ideas to help Solve the Homelessness Issue

On that topic, Nugent said he would enlist the assistance of law enforcement and other first responders in the homelessness issue.

“I'm committed to working with our first responders, and with our police officers on identifying what the issues are, and how we can actually help,” he said. “The city isn't able to be the mental health provider, and the city isn't able to be the substance abuse counselor, so we need to work with our partners to identify that. The other thing I'd like to see us do, and this is a little bit out of the box for maybe Missoula, but I'd actually like to see us assign a handful of police officers to the unhoused route.”

Click here to view the entire debate from the City Club at the Edgewater in Missoula.

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Gallery Credit: Stacker

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