Another Way Government Extracts More Of Your Money In Missoula, Montana

by William Skink

Thanks to this Missoulian article I am reminded of the fact there are many ways we get squeezed by the vice-grip of byzantine government processes. The article is a sticker shock warning about the coming price-tag for living in our wonderful mountain town utopia.

Here’s the technical way you will be getting fucked by Missoula’s hot market:

“It’s hard to answer about a particular property, not knowing what happened, but the (appraisal) methods are the same,” Talwani said. “It has to do with comparable properties selling for more than they did two years ago.”

The DOR also uses “cost” appraisals for commercial properties, where it calculates how much it will cost to build a similar structure, according to Missoula County Clerk and Treasurer Tyler Gernant. A third method is to calculate the income that could be derived from a property if it’s leased out for commercial purposes.

“The market’s been really hot, and the market values in looking at what your house could sell for … you can’t say it is wrong, but it is shocking,” Gernant said.

Hot market, more value, so more taxes. Tyler Gernant says you can’t say it’s wrong, which I take to mean legally wrong, and he’s right. But what about morally wrong?

There is some push-back bubbling up to the housing recommendations released last month worth checking out, and to its credit it was posted at Missoula Current. I appreciate Hermina Harold’s take on the cautious, development-friendly approach being suggested. Here’s the gist of the ask:

Recently, the Missoula City Council was handed a slate of housing policy recommendations to review, and they have work to do before the June 24 vote. The policy recommendations are skewed in the direction of developer incentives. These types of incentives largely failed when Bozeman and Whitefish tried them. Both cities have now switched over to mandatory inclusionary zoning policies.

We don’t have the luxury of time to wait and see if the incentives work and then change course. A University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research study from 2018 reported that when median wages are compared to median home prices, Missoula housing is already less affordable than Bozeman, Denver, Seattle, Portland and Miami.

I am asking our City Council and Missoula Redevelopment Agency to enact two regulatory policies to stop the displacement of working people: 1) mandatory inclusionary zoning and 2) Tax Increment Finance District affordability requirements.

All things considered, those aren’t extreme asks. But my hunch is they will be ignored.

It’s worth noting this “Community Voices” op-ed was quickly dropped for a big picture of people who do no actual manual labor holding shovels in yet another article about the first new build in Missoula’s TOZ.

Meanwhile, for everyone else, the squeeze just keeps squeezing.

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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