Missoula City Council sends stuff back to committee

The Missoula City Council kicked a couple items back to committee — but not without an attempt from Councilman Bob Jaffe to handle at least one matter on the floor.

Councilwoman Renee Mitchell, who raised concerns about protecting established neighborhoods, asked to send the plan for density bonuses back for more work.

Jaffe needed eight votes to suspend the rules and keep the item on the floor, but his attempt to handle things Monday fell short. Councilors Roy Houseman, Jon Wilkins, Lyn Hellegaard, Renee Mitchell, Dick Haines and Ed Childers voted against the rule suspension.

Will any real work get accomplished in committee? This summer, when the special districts got sent back, there was a lot of hot air, but not much action.

Sometimes, sending stuff back to committee means working out nitty-gritty details. Other times, sending stuff back to committee just means delay.

In this case, a delay wouldn’t hurt anything, said Councilman Childers.

The rule in question would offer breaks to developers who provide permanently affordable homes. The breaks come on a sliding scale in the form of density bonuses, the ability to build on smaller lots, and flexibility with building standards. (See Section C of the link.)

Councilman Dave Strohmaier said he didn’t see any point in returning the item because the divide on affordable housing is philosophical and can’t be resolved in committee.

“What we’re hearing tonight is simply residual arguments that we’ve heard time and time again in this chamber,” Strohmaier said.

Folks from the Missoula Housing Authority and homeWORD voiced support for the rule, but the acting director in the Office of Planning and Grants said it’s expected to be used in only limited cases.

— Keila Szpaller

Good news in housing

6f1cb53c-d946-11de-b3b0-001cc4c03286.imageThe median price of a home in urban Missoula has dropped* a hair for two years in a row, according to data from the Missoula Organization of Realtors.

In 2007, the median price was $210,000, according to the MOR. In 2008, it sank to $207,000. This year through the end of October, it was  sitting at $205,000.

That’s a little bit of an improvement if you’re trying to buy a home.

The Missoula Housing Authority has been helping people get into homes, including ones of their own through their Family Self Sufficiency program.

Here are some program stats from admissions and occupancy manager Jim McGrath.

“Since 2003, there have been 43 graduates whom have moved off all public assistance (including housing);

Since 2003, 78 participants have successfully completed the program;

(and) in this last year, the average graduate has left the program with $6,371.00 saved in their escrow account.

Since 2000, 36 participants have moved into home ownership.”

One of those homeowners spent her first Thanksgiving in her new home this year. If you missed that story about her and her family, it’s here.*

— Keila Szpaller

It’s permanent and unanimous

When the Missoula Housing Authority board chose MHA deputy Lori Davidson as its executive director, it did so on an interim basis. That was two years ago, after director Peter Hance resigned following questions about the way he was managing the agency and running projects. Now, the most recent board packet notes Davidson has become the permanent pick.

“… (Board chairman) Jamie Hoffmann stated the Board unanimously wishes to retain Lori Davidson as the permanent executive director. He wants to negotiate and engage Davidson in a contract. (Board member John) Boyle and Hoffmann will meet with Davidson to discuss the terms of the contract and compensation.”

— Keila Szpaller