Missoula faces a housing crisis that has caused drastic increases in home prices and rents, driving countless families and individuals out of the housing market. Our mission at Habitat for Humanity of Missoula is to create strength, stability, and self-reliance through shelter and we are committed to taking a leadership role in addressing the housing crisis.

To do this, we need to address the 5 Ls of construction: labor, lumber, lots, laws and loans.

Rising lumber costs and labor shortages in Missoula are contributing significantly to the rising cost of home construction. In order to combat these two cost drivers, Habitat has explored new ways to build faster, while maintaining the affordability our community so desperately needs.

Lots and laws are two elements of the 5 Ls of construction that prohibit Habitat from increasing production. With the cost of land rising dramatically, along with very low availability, Habitat is struggling to secure land for new construction that meets zoning requirements. Although we have a list of donors willing to donate their largest backyards to own additional homes, current zoning laws prohibit us from doing so.

Through our research, we discovered a higher demand for single-person homes than for nuclear family homes. To meet demand needs, it is time for us to change tack and increase development to add as many affordable homes to the market as possible. Habitat advocates for new zoning laws to increase home ownership on smaller lots using townhouses, condos and multiplexes.

It may take years for housing market inflation to stabilize, but families and individuals need our help now. Affordable housing fights inflation in several ways. According to Habitat International, “greater tax generation, job creation, economic development opportunities, increased job retention and productivity, and the ability to address inequality; all are part of the economic benefits of increased access to affordable, quality housing.” Rising house prices will only continue to push inflation measures higher.

We don’t have enough housing to support the growing community and now working class families are paying the price. Missoula has 1,138 people and 400 children at risk of not having stable shelter. As new housing estates are built around the city, they are still out of reach, leaving the majority of people at risk behind.

Building incentives for affordable housing should be a priority for policymakers and community partners dedicated to helping solve the housing crisis. At Habitat, we increase production every year to provide the community with more affordable housing, but we can’t do it alone. This is where loans come in, with the help of our donors, in-kind sponsors and community donors, we will be able to continue to increase our programming to help as many people as possible.

Our goal as a community is to support those who need a helping hand and put them on a solid foundation of hope for the future. While other drivers of inflation are expected to ease in the coming months, the housing deficit is going nowhere unless policymakers and the community come together to create lasting change. Every individual in our community who has been displaced deserves to have their voice heard.