MISSOULA — Missoula County authorities are trying to get a handle on the current rental market following the new eviction moratorium, which took effect Tuesday.
The problem? Out of 6,000 rentals, only around 20 are available right now. Not only that, but renters say they're struggling to make rent in a state where landlords can legally increase the cost as much as they want.
Missoula leaders are listening to the data, trying to find some kind of solution to the city's housing crunch.
Many renters say they struggle to afford rent or find a new apartment when it comes time to move.
“It is very difficult if you’re a renter, competing for these very few available properties," said Matt Mellott, an Advisor with Sterling CRE.
The rental vacancy has been low, below 1% since at least 2020 with data from this June showing it is now at .38%.
“Effectively a non-functioning market. You can barely do turnover at a vacancy rate that is that low,” said Mellott.
To put things in perspective, experts say a good vacancy rate is around 4% or 5%. Meanwhile, an estimated 9.1% of renters in Missoula County are behind on their rent, based on recent Census data.
That data show Missoula County renters owe an average of $2,685 in back rent. and Sterling CRE says Missoula’s wage increases aren’t keeping pace with rent increases.
“When these things are out of whack, it starts to push people out of Missoula," Mellott said, adding that all of this is impacting the local economy.
“If a company is coming here, and they need to house their employees, and their employees have fewer options, then it’s less likely to get new companies, or to keep companies around," Mellott said.
“How do we move forward as a community, so that we can have better outcomes so that we can have more housing, both rental and homeownership units on the market?” asked Missoula City Council member Heidi West.
Based on community surveys, Sterling CRE presented a couple of creative options for residents like creating more high density and constructing tiny homes, attached homes, and townhomes.
The Missoula City Council also received an update on rental assistance available for Montanans on Wednesday. That information can be found here.