MISSOULA — This edition of Current Events with Missoula Current founding editor Martin Kidston examines how Missoula wants to make it more attractive to developers looking to build affordable housing.

“They took a step last week to try to go in that direction. Everyone knows that the cost of labor has gone up, the cost of materials has gone up, which has driven up the cost of housing. You have all the influence of the market here. They’re trying to get the cost of housing here in Missoula under control and they’re diving deep into their housing policy to try to move in that direction,” Kidston explained.

“Last week they started exploring incentives to offer developers in exchange for something else. By incentives, I mean doing this for that, like giving up the right of way to licensed developers to maybe build more density or build higher in exchange for a set number of affordable housing units. These units would be affordable for a number of years. The process is underway.”

“There are a few different areas, and among them is the cost of land. The city could consider subsidizing the cost of land for development. It could consider subsidizing the cost of utilities. She could look at allowing developers to increase the density or the height of the buildings. All of that would come with a different type of formula so that some incentive would come with a certain number of housing units that they should deliver and are affordable for a number of years,” Kidston continued.

“It’s a complex mix of this and that. They don’t want to promise too much and they don’t want to deliver too much. They have to make sure they get what they want, but also help developers pay the cost of that. Providing affordable housing is not easy. When they do, they have to get something in return for it to become a reality.

Meanwhile, another step was taken to add to the Currents Events Center in Missoula.

“The city council has officially adopted the plan, or the vision for the design of the recreation centre. This usually means that they allow the recreation center funders to begin their fundraising process. Everyone knows that if you’re going to fundraise you need a plan in hand and that plan has a vision of what this recreation center could become,” explained Kidston.

“This is a 60,000 square foot addition to the Currents Center on McCormick Park. We’ll see how successful this fundraising effort is. Last week’s decision had nothing to do with funding. By adopting the vision, they were not adopting any financing mechanism. So this is just a vision and discussions on funding will follow.