There are predictions that up to 32,000 new residents may be moving into the Missoula area between now and the year 2040 and various organizations are looking at how that will affect housing availability and affordability at a meeting this week.

In 2015, the City Council updated the Missoula City Growth Policy noting that about 18,750 additional people were forecast to settle within the city limits of Missoula by 2035. Missoula County is now updating the Missoula Area Land Use Map, forecasting 14,000 new residents outside of the current city limits by 2040 in the area adjacent to incorporated Missoula.

On Wednesday at 7:00 pm at the Public Library the League of Women Voters Missoula is sponsoring a free public meeting, “Missoula Area Land Use Map: Where Did It Come From and Where is it Going?” featuring a panel presentation and discussion on how aspects of land use interact in shaping Missoula’s future.

Nancy Leifer with the Missoula League of Women Voters said the meeting will help continue the process of looking ahead to Missoula’s future needs.

“Our meeting coming up is on stepping back for a moment and looking at the bigger picture and all the different things that go into planning for the future,” said Leifer. “We’re looking at open space, we’re looking at climate change, transportation, housing, infrastructure, all of those components and how we need to think about them interacting with each other as we look at the year 2040 and beyond, when Missoula’s going to be a lot bigger than it is now.”

Leifer went over some of the population estimates provided by the city and the county.

“The city had forecast by the year 2035 that we’d have about 25,000 more people in  the city, and the county right now if working on the forecast  for 2040, and they’re estimating another 14,000 outside the city limits, so we’re looking at maybe as many as 30 or 35,000 more people here when we look 20 years out.”

Leifer addressed the issue of housing and the financial difficulties Missoula families already face.

“The affordability standard for rent, and or for a mortgage payment is that it be no more than 30 percent of your income,” she said. “We have statistics now that indicate that for a lot of people in Missoula, that’s more like 45 percent, which means that people just don’t have enough money to pay for everything else they need to pay for, or they have to live way out of town and have to commute back and forth, which stretches their budgets in other ways.”

Citizen comment is an integral part of the planning process, and the public is encouraged to attend.