Missoula County should prioritize increasing affordable housing for all and assisting nonprofits that provide public services, according to the results of a recent survey on community needs.
The Community and Planning Services Grants and Community Programs Division conducted an annual community needs assessment to gauge the community’s interests and funding priorities. The needs assessment was the first step in determining how to effectively use potential state and federal funds and to ensure that community development projects reflect community needs.
The following priorities were established through an online survey and virtual meeting.
- The top two actions Missoula County should prioritize overall:
- Increase housing that is affordable for all
- Assist nonprofits that provide public services
- Top two priorities for housing initiatives:
- Support initiatives to maintain and/or increase affordable housing
- Down payment assistance for low- and moderate-income homebuyers
- Top two homelessness priorities:
- Mental health and substance abuse services
- Increased supply of permanent supportive housing
- Top two strategies for increased economic development:
- Increase the supply of housing that is affordable to the workforce
- Job training and opportunities for at-risk populations (e.g. prisoner, re-entry, homeless, recovery, etc.)
- Top two public infrastructure priorities:
- Broadband internet coverage and access
- Bike lanes and trails and streets and roads
- Top two community facility needs:
- Mental health center
- Emergency housing facility (youth, domestic violence survivors, homeless individual/families)
- Top two public services priorities:
- Mental health services
- Homelessness services including prevention
- Top two priorities for COVID-19-related assistance:
- Emergency rental assistance payment for low-to moderate-income households impacted by COVID-19
- Financial assistance for small business owners
Every year, Missoula County conducts a community needs assessment to prepare for the release of federal funding opportunities, namely Home Investment Partnerships, Community Development Block Grants and Brownfield Assessment Grants. This assessment addresses the public participation requirement of the federal funding application process and is used to identify funding priorities in the county.
Missoula County competes with other Montana counties and communities for CDBG funding, which is awarded to the State of Montana from the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development. Missoula County has secured CDBG funding to partially support the construction costs of the Poverello Center and the new YWCA Family Housing Center on Third Street, soon to be known as the Meadowlark. State CDBG funding also partially funded the updated wastewater system in East Missoula and an updated wastewater system for the resident-owned Buena Vista trailer court near the Missoula International Airport. Furthermore, the county has a CDBG housing repair grant for eligible households to support the costs of repairs needed due to health or safety concerns.
The Missoula County Brownfields Assessment Program is just getting off the ground. This grant from the Environmental Protection Agency provides funding for phase I and phase II environmental assessments on properties where its expansion, redevelopment or reuse is complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant. The grant also supports cleanup and redevelopment planning. Nearly every community in Montana has brownfield sites. Left untouched, a brownfield can pose insurmountable environmental, legal and public and private investment challenges. The grant is earmarked for properties outside of city limits; however, all potential properties would be considered.
This year’s assessment included an online survey distributed to Missoula County residents from June 3 – 17 through email, social media and ads in the Missoulian and Seeley Swan Pathfinder. The survey included questions about Missoula County’s housing, public services, public infrastructure, economic development and COVID-19 response and recovery. Staff received 207 responses. In addition to the online survey, Grants and Community Program staff conducted a virtual meeting seeking additional community feedback on June 25. Representatives of Missoula service agencies and 13 community members attended the meeting.
Staff presented information on the assessment to the Missoula County commissioners on July 7, and it will be compiled into a final report that includes the survey results, meeting minutes and public comment. This report is a required component of federal and state grant applications, which are due in September; interested parties can contact the Grants and Community Planning staff to learn more.
To view the presentation, go to www.missoulacounty.us/grants and click on Community Needs Assessment.