Missoula property managers wary of new housing units


POSTED: 9:40 PM Jan 23 2013   UPDATED: 10:03 PM Jan 23 2013
Missoula property managers wary of new housing units

A quality of life initiative announced by Missoula and the University of Montana is stirring up some controversy.

The initiative would bring 1,000 new housing units to Missoula, but property managers are concerned about how additional units would affect their business. 

City officials say there is a demand for what they call safe and quality housing in Missoula.

“Based on everything we hear there's not enough inventory,” said Missoula Mayor John Engen.  “This new housing shouldn't take away from anybody who's doing a good job, it just gives more people more options.” 

But property managers say they have more vacancies now than ever before.

NBC Montana talked to Sam Caras of Caras Property Management, who says after 41 years of renting property he has never had so many open apartments.

Caras says he wants to know why the city thinks there is a demand for housing, especially for students, when Caras says he understands enrollment is down at the University of Montana.

Engen says property managers should support the initiative.

“Frankly if you're a rock solid property manager I think you should probably be supporting this effort,” said Engen.  “This initiative would get the substandard stuff and the bad actors out of the marketplace, and those are the folks you're competing with whether you know it or not, so we're hoping to level the playing field.”

Housing is just part of the joint project between the university and the city. Both parties say it's not just about the quantity of housing they're trying to improve, it’s quality.

“There are folks living in circumstances that are substandard,” said Engen.  “But they aren’t going to say anything because they don't want their rent to go up or they don't want to get kicked out.”

Caras says even if all of the company’s rentals aren't brand new, they're still safe and quality units.

Engen says they're not trying to put out good property managers; they simply want to fill the demand. He says he hopes to break ground on the thousand new units within the next two years.

NBC Montana will continue to follow this story and we will bring you the details as we learn more.