Archive for November 10th, 2008

by jhwygirl

The Mayor’s Housing Team team has been hard at work, and at tonight’s City Council hearing, Mayor John Engen will bring forth a resolution that will direct staff to develop implementation strategies to increase attainable housing for Missoula’s workforce.

The statistics are startling people – something most of you already know. I know I do. This link here will take you to numerous typical household scenarios here in Missoula, illustrating the gap between market housing and the household salary.

Or how about these:

– 52% of renters and 25% of homeowners in Missoula spend more than 30% of their monthly income to house themselves.

– A family making the median income in Missoula can afford a $165,000
home; the median home price for 2007 was $219,550.

– 70% of Missoulians could not afford to buy the house they live in
today if they had to buy it today.

For years now I’ve used a statement similar to the last one – asking people how much their house is worth, and then asking them if they could afford to buy it right now at that price on their current salary.

The answer is usually silence, followed by “no.”

And think about that first statistic – that 52% of renters and 25% of homeowners spend more than 30% of their income on housing. Why is that bad? Because that extra that they put into housing is less that they put into our local economy.

Not good for anyone, including local business.

For someone who makes more than 80% of the median income, but not enough to buy into market housing, the situation is all the more frustrating. A search of the Missoula Multi-Listing Service will come up with dozens of homes that are sold only to income eligible people who make 80% or less than the median income. Sure – there are many homes on the current MLS that would meet my income level – but most of them are 50+ years old, and would not meet the loan lender standards to sell to a first-time home buyer.

Beyond that, it is important for people who are scratching out their first-time home purchase to have something that isn’t falling apart – i.e., won’t need a new roof or a new water heater or even insulation. And while there is a constantly changing list of condominiums there, when looking at affordability a buyer has to consider monthly homeowners fees into that mortgage payment. So even though there are quite a bit of condos out there in a range that might seem affordable to me, the HOA fees push it into an unaffordable range.

Affordability is defined as housing that costs no more than 30% of your income – and that 30% would include fees like HOA fees, water, sewer, garbage, gas, electricity, taxes. NOT cable, phone, internet.

Even in this current housing downslump – a slump that, while it will hit (has hit) the Rocky Mountain West, will hit a lot less harder than the rest of the nation and will last a lot less shorter than the rest of the nation, because, as you know, location is everything – the market won’t provide. The amenities offered merely by living here in Montana are too strong a draw to keep our housing markets down for long.

What I appreciate in this resolution is the recognition that people making 80-125% of median are without help right now. All of the housing organizations right now provide housing for people below those levels, but the rest of us (or people like me) are left out in the cold. These are the working professionals, emergency responders, teachers, and police of Missoula.

The lack of affordable housing is affecting the ability of many businesses around town to hire and expand – engineering and surveying firms, hospitals and healthcare agencies, the university, and our police and school district – while able to attract qualified individuals to job interviews often can’t seal the deal because of the lack of homes in the market at the salaries our struggling businesses are able to afford.

How much do you want to be taxed to make sure we have basic services like police, fire and teachers?

Do you want your police, fire personnel and teachers driving from Ravalli, Mineral and Powell County?

The effect is stagnating.

You can’t buy the view.

There’s quite a few words amoungst our pages here at 4&20 regarding affordable housing. Consider checking these two out:
Affordable Housing and Firefighters
Affordable Housing for Police Only?

Or you could put “affordable housing” into the search over there on the left, and come up with this, which includes a wide mix of issues.

Consider showing up tonight letting council know you support this resolution – or, if you can’t make it, shoot the Mayor and the rest of city council an email letting them know to Get ‘Er Done.

Let these guys and gals know that Missoula’s economic stability and vitality are important to you – and that affordable housing for Missoula’s workforce is part of that mix.

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