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Cover Page Image, 2018 Missoula Housing ReportEXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

Housing Development & Occupancy

 

Missoula’s growing population, along with a tight rental market and tight real estate supply, spurred an increase in construction in 2017. Residential lot sales rang in with 169 lots being sold in 2017, marking the third year in a row of high lot sales. The median price of those lots increased 8.1 percent in 2017, to $92,500.

 

Building permits within the City of Missoula remained high for the second year in a row, with a total of 758 units permitted. At the county level, single-family building permits increased by 25 percent in 2017 and multi-family units increased by 162 percent over the previous year. However, according to US Census Bureau estimates, county-wide growth in the housing stock lagged slightly behind growth in the number of households between 2010 and 2016.

 

The number of Townhome Exemption Development units permitted also increased in the city. In addition, after three years of relative inactivity, Missoula saw a substantial increase in the number of preliminary plat approvals for subdivisions.

 

In the City of Missoula, about 46 percent of housing units are occupied by their owners; in Missoula County, owners occupy about 57 percent of the units.

 

Population and Income

 

Missoula County reached a population of 116,130 in 2016, a 1.7 percent increase from the previous year. Net migration has driven this recent growth, increasing 86 percent from 2015 to 2016, indicating that a much higher proportion of people are moving to Missoula than are moving away. This has placed increasing pressure on the housing supply.

 

While Missoula boasts a relatively low unemployment rate, the median income in Missoula County in 2016 was $46,550, which is below the Montana and U.S. median income. However, Missoula homeowners had a median income of $64,612 while Missoula renters came in at less than half of that, with a median income of $31,146. Such numbers highlight the difficulty that many residents have in affording both rental and real estate prices.

 

The percentage of Missoulians living in poverty continues to hover around 16 percent. The number of homeless individuals identified by a single point-in-time survey in January 2017 was 344, which was down slightly from 2016; however, the Missoula County Public Schools estimate that 438 children were homeless or in unstable housing during the 2016-2017 school year.

 

Rental Housing

 

Missoula continued to encounter low vacancy rates for rentals in 2017, with an average vacancy rate of just 3.0 percent. Certain types of rentals experienced rent increases of up to 5 and 6 percent for three- and four-bedroom units, while other rents increased by less than 2 percent.

 

The Missoula Housing Authority was able to support all 774 of its Section 8 vouchers, which subsidize rent, but the demand for this rental assistance greatly exceeds the supply. They still had 1,637 households on a waitlist for Section 8 vouchers in 2017.

 

Housing Sales & Prices

 

In 2017 Missoula experienced its most active year of home sales on record, with 1,543 homes sold. Of those, 39 percent were priced between $200,000 and $275,000—a price range that was considered in under supply according to the market absorption rates.

 

With a tight supply and competition among buyers, the median price of a home in Missoula increased 5.2 percent to $268,250 in 2017. Sales of homes under $200,000 declined by 26 percent, indicating a shrinking availability of more affordable homes. Meanwhile, sales of condominiums and townhouses, which often provide a more affordable option for buyers, increased by 29 percent in 2017.

 

New construction sales also hit a high in 2017, with 191 units sold, a 59 percent increase from 2017.

 

Housing Finance

 

Mortgage rates remained affordable in 2017, with a year-end interest rate of 4.0 percent. However, student loan debt has been a hurdle for many borrowers. While conventional loan programs have changed the way they calculate this debt, the FHA and USDA Rural Development loans have not. Approximately 69 percent of 2017 buyers used a conventional loan.

 

When it comes to down payments, Missoula homebuyers have access to a number of down payment assistance programs, as well as homebuyer and financial education. The good news is that home mortgage foreclosures dropped to a 10-year low, with just 24 properties reaching foreclosure in 2017.

 

Housing Affordability

 

Housing affordability remains an issue for both renters and prospective homebuyers. The Missoula Housing Affordability Index increased slightly in 2017, after several years of decline. But it still remains that a household would need a median income of $84,038 to afford a median-priced home with a 5-percent down payment in 2017. With a 20 percent down payment, one would need a household income of $65,949.

 

In both 2015 and 2016 (which have the most recent available data), approximately 47 percent of Missoula renters spent more than 30 percent of their income on housing, which put them in the “cost burdened” category of being likely to have a hard time meeting other financial obligations. Comparatively, Missoula homeowners appear to be less cost burdened, with 25 percent of homeowners spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs in 2016.

 

Download the 2018 Missoula Housing Report


Making Missoula Home Cover Page - 2018Recognizing the growing issues of housing affordability facing the greater Missoula area, in the winter of 2016-2017 the Missoula Organization of REALTORS® began assembling both private and public-sector partners towards the goal of commissioning a study to analyze the housing market conditions and provide recommendations for strategies to promote more housing affordability.

 

In March 2017, Werwath associates was retained to collect data and research that characterized the demographic and housing market conditions, analyze the current state of housing affordability, survey both housing consumers and the building industry, analyze both regulatory and no-regulatory housing development constraints, and to provide concise recommendations for new strategies to increase housing affordability.

 

The process of compiling this report included a deep review of housing, workforce, and demographic information from the Census and local sources, over 30 stakeholder interviews (see Appendix I for a complete list), a review of housing market and housing development cost data, as well as a review of key regulations impacting housing development for both the City of Missoula and Missoula County.

 

The process of compiling this report was overseen by a diverse advisory group that included representatives from the city, county, building industry, REALTORS®, lenders, local businesses, and planning/engineering fields who met four times throughout the process of drafting the report to provide feedback on report drafts as well as to provide overall feedback on the approach and direction of the project. In addition, the drafts were reviewed by affordable housing service providers including the Missoula Housing Authority, Homeword, and NeighborWorks Montana, who provided invaluable feedback. There was also broad community and industry support for this project, and continued support around implementation is what will be required to create systems-level change in the various areas that impact housing affordability.

 

This project would not be possible without the direct support of our project partners including the City of Missoula, Missoula County, the Missoula Area Chamber of Commerce, Missoula Building Industry Association, and the Missoula Economic Partnership. Additional sponsorship support was provided by First Security Bank, Edgell Building, Pew Construction, Territorial LandWorks, St. Patrick Hospital, First Interstate Bank, the National Association of REALTORS®, and the Montana Association of REALTORS®. We would also like to recognize the time and valuable input volunteered by our advisory group members: Collin Bangs, Clint Burson, David Edgell, Janna Geier, James Grunke, Ruth Hackney, Scott Hansen, John Horner, Merry Hutton, Mike Nugent, Pat O’Herren, Eran Pehan, Tom Pew, Jason Rice, Nicole Rush, Sam Sill, and DJ Smith.

 

Download the Making Missoula Home report


Cover Page, 2017 Missoula Housing ReportThe median sales price of a Missoula home reached a record high of $255,000 in 2016. With low interest rates, a higher demand for housing, and low unemployment rates, the outlook for Missoula is strong in many respects. However, at the same time, for residents of Missoula, housing is becoming less affordable, the real estate market has an incredibly tight supply, and renters are also faced with a low vacancy rate and rents that are often not proportionate to their income.

 

The stresses on the Missoula housing situation include a growing population, which reached 114,181 this year, a 9.4 increase since 2006. In addition, incomes in Missoula have not increased at the same rate as rent or home prices, causing housing affordability to decline.

 

The central issue in this year’s report reveals a tight supply of housing, both for sale and for rent, which has created challenges. In response to a tight supply of real estate and higher prices, 2016 saw significant increases in home buyers either opting to build (the median price of a lot did not increase) or purchase more affordable condominiums or townhomes (which had median prices of $207,900 and $235,000, respectively). In addition, despite the work of organizations that offer services for low income renters, the demand for their services still far outweighs the number of vouchers or affordable housing units they can provide.

 

With the addition of the new City Office of Housing and Community Development in 2016, we hope to see a positive impact on housing and many of the issues this report presents. In addition, the Missoula Organization of REALTORS® has partnered with the City of Missoula, Missoula County, Missoula Economic Partnership, Missoula Area Chamber of Commerce, Missoula Building Industry Association, and a number of private sector organizations on a study to identify barriers and solutions to developing greater amounts of attainably priced housing. We believe this study, which should be released in the summer of 2017, will help the community address the affordability of housing.

 

As Missoula grows and attempts to adapt to its growth, we face both opportunities and challenges. While affordability and supply emerged as key issues in this year’s report, it is clear that this community is dedicated to finding solutions to address homelessness, affordability, and quality of life.

 

Download the 2017 Missoula Housing Report


Missoula’s housing situation has improved greatly in many ways in the last few years, rebounding from the burst of the housing bubble. In 2015, sales were up, foreclosures were down, interest rates stayed low,and the market value of homes continued to increase. However, that strong real estate market, coupled with a growing population, also brings with it affordability and housing supply challenges.   Both the number of sales and the median price of a home increased in 2015, with the median price hitting an all-time high of $238,700. Prospective homebuyers found a tight supply of affordable houses in Missoula, and many buyers opted to build instead, with lots sales and the median price of residential lots also increasing in 2015.   The Missoula housing market still faces a number of other challenges, mostly having to do with affordability and available supply. While several organizations are working hard to alleviate issues of affordability and homelessness, the demand for their services remains significant. The waitlist for Section 8 vouchers increased by 8 percent in 2015, and the homeless population was estimated to be around 500 people.   As the county’s population increases by about 1 percent each year, housing demand also grows. Missoula’s vacancy rate for rentals remains relatively low, and the cost of rent continues to increase. However, most of Missoula’s building permits in 2015 went towards multi-family units, which may help address the growing population.   Meanwhile, the data show that 54.3 percent of renters and 27.2 percent of homeowners spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs. (Ideally, they should spend no more than 25% of their income on housing.) This shows that Missoula still has a significant population that struggles to find affordable housing.   Overall, 2015 statistics showed many positive trends for the Missoula housing market and the economy, but they also highlighted a number of challenges for buyers and renters. With strong programs working on affordability and homelessness issues, it is clear that Missoula is striving to create a vibrant community that we can all call home.Missoula’s housing situation has improved greatly in many ways in the last few years, rebounding from the burst of the housing bubble. In 2015, sales were up, foreclosures were down, interest rates stayed low,and the market value of homes continued to increase. However, that strong real estate market, coupled with a growing population, also brings with it affordability and housing supply challenges.

 

Both the number of sales and the median price of a home increased in 2015, with the median price hitting an all-time high of $238,700. Prospective homebuyers found a tight supply of affordable houses in Missoula, and many buyers opted to build instead, with lots sales and the median price of residential lots also increasing in 2015.

 

The Missoula housing market still faces a number of other challenges, mostly having to do with affordability and available supply. While several organizations are working hard to alleviate issues of affordability and homelessness, the demand for their services remains significant. The waitlist for Section 8 vouchers increased by 8 percent in 2015, and the homeless population was estimated to be around 500 people.

 

As the county’s population increases by about 1 percent each year, housing demand also grows. Missoula’s vacancy rate for rentals remains relatively low, and the cost of rent continues to increase. However, most of Missoula’s building permits in 2015 went towards multi-family units, which may help address the growing population.

 

Meanwhile, the data show that 54.3 percent of renters and 27.2 percent of homeowners spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs. (Ideally, they should spend no more than 25% of their income on housing.) This shows that Missoula still has a significant population that struggles to find affordable housing.

 

Overall, 2015 statistics showed many positive trends for the Missoula housing market and the economy, but they also highlighted a number of challenges for buyers and renters. With strong programs working on affordability and homelessness issues, it is clear that Missoula is striving to create a vibrant community that we can all call home.

 

Download the 2016 Missoula Housing Report


Cover Page, 2015 Missoula Housing ReportMissoula’s housing market has entered a more stable and encouraging phase. Based on the data in this report, we continued to gain more confidence in the Missoula housing market in 2014. Current homeowners sit in a positive position, with homes continuing to appreciate while inventory numbers, lot sales, building permits, and home sales were all in a healthy range. Coupled with a large drop in distressed sales, it presents a positive picture.

 

Residential lot sales, as well as their median sales price, increased in 2014. Building permits also increased, with the greatest number of new permits being issued for multi-family development, which will help in addressing Missoula’s growing population and the demand for rental units.

 

While the total number of home sales decreased slightly in 2014, sales began to outpace previous years by the third and fourth quarters. Condominium and townhouse sales also remained fairly strong. The median price of a Missoula home reached an all-time high of $225,000. Affordable homes saw the highest demand, with 59 percent of all home sales falling in the $100,000 to $250,000 range. Based on the inventory of homes on the market and the length of time they remained on the market, Missoula was solidly in a “normal” market again, after what equated to an oversupply in the market until 2012. In addition, the sharp drop in foreclosures and short sales meant fewer below-market-value sales. Potential home buyers may see a further increase in competition for affordable homes, and sellers may see less downward pressure on prices.

 

The challenge moving forward for housing is the lack of available supply in some areas. While the higher price ranges and some areas have a normal amount of listed supply, some other neighborhoods and Missoula’s more affordable price ranges are getting tighter and tighter on listed inventory. Lower-listed inventories can cause rapid bidding up in prices, which is good for homeowners but can be challenging for buyers who may be forced to pay higher prices or may get pushed beyond a comfortable purchase price. Low inventories also lead to slower market sales volume; if there aren’t enough listed homes on the market to meet the current demand, sales activity will lag.

 

While homebuyers now face more stringent lendingstandards, interest rates have remained low, and Missoula residents appear to be entering the homeownership process more financially informed than in previous years.

 

The demand for rentals in Missoula kept rental vacancy rates below the national average once again, and the cost of rent continued to increase in 2014. However, the growth in multi-family construction and permitting appears to be recognizing this demand. Missoula still faces several challenges, especially in meeting the needs of those who seek financial housing assistance and those who are homeless or at risk of being homeless.

 

The data on the affordability of rental housing shows that a high percentage of renters in Missoula still spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing. Coupled with a poverty rate of 18 percent, these facts offer evidence of a significant population that struggles to find affordable housing.

 

The Missoula Housing Authority was able to increase the number of Section 8 vouchers to assist with rental costs in 2014, but the demand for such assistance remains high, with more than 1,500 names on the waiting list.

 

Missoula began to make headway with the “Reaching Home: Missoula’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness.” While the number of literally homeless individuals did not decline in 2014, a large number of homeless people gained housing through various programs. The number of homeless or at-risk children, which had been extraordinarily high and worrisome in previous years, declined significantly, though the problem has not disappeared.

 

The City of Missoula is currently updating its Growth Policy to guide the future social, physical, environmental and economic growth and development of the city.

 

Rental prices continue to be high for renters in Missoula.

 

Overall, Missoula’s housing market exhibits strong statistics for 2014, though the data still reveal a number of challenges for buyers, sellers, and renters. It is clear that the economy is rebounding, the market is stronger, and Missoula is working hard to make this community a viable home for all.

 

Download the 2015 Missoula Housing Report