Affordable, adequate, and secure housing is a human right and a building block for the health of our community. We have a moral obligation to ensure unhoused Missoulians have access to secure and adequate housing. As it stands, our city’s budget and policies fail to prioritize housing solutions that work for Missoulians of all walks of life. I am committed to developing a fully funded Affordable Housing Trust Fund, implementing inclusionary zoning ordinances, regulating vacation rentals to prevent the loss of residential neighborhoods to AirBnB, and everything else it will take to ensure every member of our community is housed.
Policy & Budget Priorities:
Affordable Housing Trust Fund
We must reallocate funds to increase the portion of the general budget that goes towards the Affordable Housing Trust Fund and ensuring permanent funding. We must ensure BIPOC representation on the Housing Trust Fund’s Citizen Oversight Committee and ensure unbiased experts and renters make up the majority of the committee instead of developers and builders.
Tax Increment Financing (TIF)
TIF has the capacity to do a lot of good, but it should only be used for housing or other projects that benefit the entire community. In recent years, TIF has been used to help fund big businesses such as Starbucks and Stockman bank in Missoula. I will not allow this to continue, but instead will commit to the majority of TIF spending to go towards affordable housing and community investments.
We must designate at least 50% of TIF funds in every TIF District for permanently affordable housing: community land trust homes, affordable housing co-ops, or rental units developed with greater than 50-year affordability requirements.
Requiring lower rental application fees by putting a control on these fees will help renters apply to new rentals. We need more transparency for where application fees are used.
Renters should be able to be organized in a renter tenants association that could participate in City Council decisions, help prevent evictions, and be contacted when the rental laws change, such as when the national moratorium on eviction was implemented in 2020. When tenants have as much political say as real estate and big developers, we will be able to ensure affordable, available housing.
Limiting Vacation Rentals inside City Limits
Recently City Council has loosened the owner occupancy rule on accessory dwelling units (ADU), secondary homes that share a lot with a primary house, which will lead to more Airbnb’s and other vacation rentals. We must change the ADU policy to ensure no Airbnb or vacation rentals are built as ADU and to limit the number of Airbnb or vacation rentals inside of city limits. The ADU policy should make it easier to build an ADU on property and to rent ADU out to everyone, giving more options for affordable housing with ADU.
Land banking is a tool to set aside urban land for future affordable housing development. This will help us preserve rural land and allow more people to live in the urban areas as Missoula’s population grows. We must ensure a Community Oversight Committee with no developers on the committee to make decisions for land banking.
A linkage fee would be added on to developments that extend water and other utilities, granting more funding to the Affordable Housing Trust. This is a fee for large developers to ensure that some of their development profits are put back into helping community housing. After the pandemic, we will need to ensure enough funding for our community members struggling with housing security and adding a linkage fee on to new developments will provide funds.
Missoula needs a permanent Housing First policy to create long-term housing for our unhoused neighbors. Housing First provides housing and social services for unhoused people with no preconditions. When Missoulians are forced to move or evicted, there needs to be a relocation assistance program with a hired housing navigator to help our neighbors secure housing.
I will fight for reallocating more funds towards providing homes for every member of our community and prioritize funding shelters in the meantime. With a plan and political will, we can ensure that every Missoulian is housed.
Pulling Missoulians Out of Homelessness in Our Community
We need to create long-term, stable, supportive housing for Missoulians experiencing homelessness, going beyond providing short-term shelter to address the root cause of housing instability: affordability and resources. We must also recognize that housing is a public health issue, and coordinate community partnerships to provide people experiencing homelessness with mental health care, treatment for substance abuse disorders, and other wrap-around services.
Creating Diversity in our Tax Revenue Portfolio
Currently, everything the City government uses is funded by property taxes. I understand that the trend of exponentially increasing property taxes is adding the issues we are facing with Missoula’s housing crisis.
When increasing the budget on City Council, I will support diverse tax revenue options to fund the City services that we need.
Passing inclusionary zoning ordinances will require developers to have a portion of newly constructed homes in residential areas set as permanently affordable for low-income households. We must pass an inclusionary zoning resolution, suggesting at least 30% affordable housing units for every new development. I will prioritize inclusionary zoning with every new housing development to ensure that when new homes are built that they are affordable.
If elected, I will push to recreate the city’s inclusionary zoning study group that was disbanded by council in 2019. We must also bring in an inclusionary zoning specialist, who is not hired by the real estate or development industry, to craft policies tailored to Missoula’s unique demographics and current economic realities.
Although Inclusionary Zoning has become illegal from the 2021 state legislature’s decision, Missoula can implement a form of Inclusionary Zoning by using a covenant on City owned land to require housing developers to build a portion of truly affordable homes for low income residents.