Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - With rent increases from 30 to 50 percent occurring in Missoula since the pandemic, KGVO welcomed Emily Harris-Shears, senior Housing Specialist with the city’s department of Community Planning, Development and Innovation on Friday to answer questions from City Talk listeners.

With Rents Increasing up to 50 Percent, Missoulians are Scared

Harris-Shears said renters are afraid to complain in case landlords might raise their rents still further.

“The uncertainty of what their housing is going to cost when their lease needs to be renewed,” began Harris-Shears. “It’s like being unsure about if they have a maintenance request, whether their landlord will decide that in the next term we don't have to renew your lease because we had to put more money into your apartment. There are protections for people but renters don't always know their rights. I think the biggest revelation was that we have some opportunity to spend focusing on the market, not from the supply side, but how people are interacting with it.”

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Harris-Shears Referenced Several Assistance Programs

Harris-Shears attempted to put their renters’ fears at ease by referencing the Affordable Housing Trust Fund and other protective programs.

“Part of what we're doing in the broader housing policy work to strengthen that market is to invest strategically, through things like the Affordable Housing Trust Fund,” she said. “That allows us to put money into projects and say this is a really important project for our community, and we need dedicated housing that's going to be income restricted, so that people who are having the hardest time getting into housing, whether that's for sale, or rental housing, are able to do so in a way that meets their budget and their housing needs, and that we’re really emphasizing that, regardless of economic status, everybody belongs here and everyone deserves to be home.”

Harris-Shears said the point of all the programs is to streamline the system for the best possible advantage for the renters and their families.

“The work that the Reaching Home team is doing in ‘a place to call home’ which is really looking at the broader housing market,” she said. “We're looking at how to strengthen our resources, leverage our tools, our money, our partnerships in order to build a stronger and faster response system so that people don't languish in a crisis experience before they receive housing again.”

She Highlighted the Housing Choice Voucher Program

Harris-Shears referenced a relatively underused program that can provide landlords and renters with vital assistance through the Missoula Housing Authority.

“There are so many new and existing ideas, but the Housing Choice Voucher Program is an existing resource in our community that's being underutilized,” she said. “If you're a landlord or you own property, or you own a basement apartment and then you're interested in helping people in this way, finding out more about the Section Eight or the Housing Choice Voucher Program through the Missoula Housing Authority and how to be a partner would be a great way to support neighbors.”

Click here to hear the entire City Talk Program with Emily Harris-Shears from the City of Missoula.

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