In late June, the Missoula City Council adopted a new housing policy aimed at a goal that dovetails with our own: fostering more affordable housing in Missoula. The sad fact is that many families in our community risk or experience homelessness even as they work one or more jobs, and the high cost of housing is a big reason why this happens.
According to the 2019 Missoula Housing Report, the median price of a home in Missoula has risen to a record high of $290,000. Rents rise with the price of housing: The average rent for a three-bedroom house in Missoula was $1,136 in 2018. Following the rule of thumb that housing should cost no more than 30 percent of take-home pay, a family would need to bring home more than $45,000 per year in order to not be considered at risk of losing housing. But according to Jim McGrath of the Missoula Housing Authority, average renter income in 2017 was $28,800—down 4.5 percent from the previous year.
When a working mom decides she must leave a violent partner, or when a family gets evicted or sees their rent hiked beyond what they can afford, homelessness is often not just a risk—it is an unavoidable reality for some period of time. The new family housing center and domestic violence shelter that YWCA Missoula and Missoula Interfaith Collaborative are building is a critical stopgap to ensure that families don’t wind up living on the streets as they try to find affordable housing in our increasingly unaffordable community.
We agree with the words of Councilwoman Gwen Jones, speaking on the night when the council adopted the new plan: “Everyone who works in our community should be able to live in our community.” We applaud the Missoula City Council for tackling this complex issue.