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New affordable housing expected this spring

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If the building plans are completed on time, the waiting list for one- and two-person housing units will get shorter this spring, and more Missoulians will have an affordable place to call home.

“Home” will be four new two-story buildings known as Russell Square at the corner of Russell and 34th Street, containing 52 one- and two-bedroom units slated to open this spring, according to Sharon O’Hare, special projects manager for the Missoula Housing Authority (MHA).

A block grant of $200,000 from the city will pay for about half the building expenses, with the other half being covered by the MHA, according to Mike Barton, grants administrator at the Missoula Office of Planning and Grants.

In addition, MHA’s offices will move from their present East Broadway location to one of the four new buildings, Barton says. Additional senior citizen housing will also be added to those already at the East Broadway location.

All the work will coincide with the arrival of MHA’s newly-hired executive director, Peter Hance, who starts on April 22.

Barton says the project came in response to a lengthy waiting list of low- to moderate-income residents in need of affordable housing, a list that has shifted from primarily larger to smaller family housing.

The additional one- and two-bedroom units, he says, will help accommodate the swelling number of one- and two-person households in Missoula, and the shrinking number of people in the average household.

“Twenty years ago the greatest need was for larger family housing,” Barton says. “There weren’t a lot of four-bedroom units that were affordable. What we’re seeing is a significant shift in the makeup of households that need assistance. As baby boomers get older, we’re seeing a trend where the average household size is getting smaller. We’re seeing a lot more single-person households.”

Barton projects that the largest growth in housing needs will be in the number of single women over the age of 60. Such projections are consistent with Census 2000 results, which found that “the number of oldest Montanans grew more than three times faster than the rest of the total population of the state.”

According to a 1999 community report provided by EPIC Relocation Services, an online Web site, in Missoula alone, one-person households make up nearly 29 percent of all households, and two-person households make up nearly 34 percent.

For those who qualify, the cost of the new rental units will not exceed 30 percent of the household’s average monthly income, Barton says. Those interested in finding out if they qualify are encouraged to contact the MHA at 549-4113.

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