Missoula Agency Approves $316,000 in Public Funding for Northside Housing Project | Local News
An ambitious housing development planned for Missoula’s Northside neighborhood received a boost in public funding to move forward on Thursday.
The Missoula Redevelopment Agency Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the expenditure of $316,527 in tax increment funding to design the streets, lanes and utilities for the Scott Street Redevelopment Project.
Ellen Buchanan, the agency’s director, told the board that public funding is needed to help a private developer, Ravara Development, get to a point where it can start construction.
“This project addresses the critical housing shortage in Missoula and the lack of basic neighborhood services for the Northside neighborhood,” she told council.
Just north of the Scott Street Bridge, the project would include up to 70 units of permanently affordable homes for sale, making it the largest affordable homeownership project in Montana history.
The homes would be available to people earning between 100% and 120% of the area’s median income, which for all Missoula County households was $51,270 in 2021. Developers have said in the past that the units would sell for between $250,000 and $340,000. The median selling price for homes sold in the Missoula urban area in December 2021 was $517,497. The townhouses and condominium units would be built on what is currently city-owned land that will be donated to a yet-to-be-determined nonprofit. This organization would operate the land as a community land trust.
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“This land will ultimately be deeded to a community land trust,” Buchanan explained. “The land trust, by owning the land, can control the resale value of the units, allowing the owner to build capital, but not excessive capital, and keep it within the range of income levels between 100 % and 120% Median income of the region.
Other parts of the project on land not currently owned by the city would also include approximately 200 market-priced apartments, green space, a day care center and other commercial space that could accommodate a store or other businesses.
“We envisioned this project to help address our housing issues in Missoula and provide a mixed-use, primarily residential neighborhood,” Buchanan said.
She noted that the business aspect is an important part of development.
“Because there’s definitely a shortage of that in the Northside neighborhood,” she said.
In April 2021, the Agency’s Board of Directors approved $226,160 for the project’s conceptual designs and public meeting process associated with the creation of this plan.
A total of $6.6 million in tax increase funding was used to purchase the 19 acres of formerly polluted land in 2020.
Tax increment funding comes from the North Reserve/Scott Street Urban Renewal District. Property taxes on new developments in this district are overseen by the Missoula Redevelopment Agency.
Ravara Development’s Kiah Hochstetler said the final hurdle for the project is getting an adjacent homeowners association to authorize a public right-of-way easement on a lane next to the project. He is quite confident that it will happen, but otherwise the project will have to be slightly redesigned.
Either way, he said the project will play an important role in reducing the lack of affordable housing in Missoula.
“There’s always concern about construction and things to come, but there’s a great demand and a great need for housing in Missoula,” he said.
Buchanan said that in the future, the board may be asked to vote on whether to commit tax-raised funding to build new public streets on the project. This future request would likely require the agency to issue tax bonds, she said, so the full city council would have to vote on it.
Dawn McGee, managing director of Ravara Development, said the Scott Street redevelopment project is slowly overcoming all obstacles and making good progress towards innovation.
“We really want to see this accommodation go live as soon as we can get there,” McGee said.