City Council President Gwen Jones, left, and Ward 6 Council member Sandra Vasceka both named housing as one of the top issues the city should focus on this year. (Martin Kidston / Courant Missoula)

With the ceremonies over and the first meeting of the new city council now on the books, senior elected officials in Missoula expect to see housing, climate and equity among the top issues they will face in 2022.

They also plan to guide the new development to ensure it meets the city’s design standards, master plans and zoning – the latter also on the table this year for possible reform.

“We have these three internal challenges related to housing, equity and climate, and we need to continue to look at all of our decisions through these lenses,” said Jordan Hess, board member. “Housing is a problem that concerns us all. It is an issue that crosses our entire community, from the point of view of economic development to the point of view of social services.

Gwen Jones, the new city council chair, also named housing as a major issue by 2022. Council will continue to focus as much as possible on the issue, and the city believes federal funding may be available for it. to help.

“The main thing is housing, and we’re going to keep moving forward as best we can,” Jones said. “There should be some federal money coming out of the state that really should make a difference, but there are a lot of factors that need to line up there.”

Besides housing, climate change is expected to become an increasingly important topic this year. In recent years, the city has begun to tackle the problem, completing a study on its carbon footprint and developing climate-related goals with the county, including efforts to achieve 100% clean electricity and zero. waste.

Mountain Line also has new electric buses on the route and solar panels have been placed at the Missoula County Jail. A similar project is expected to take place at the city’s water treatment plant.

“We have good initiatives in place, and we will continue to implement these policies,” Jones said.

During the past year, members of the City Council and the Consolidated Town Planning Council have deplored the need to integrate new projects into a zoning drafted before the adoption of the city’s growth policy.

New housing is on the rise in the greater Mullan area, and growth is expected to continue this year. (Current Missoula file)

With incompatible tools now a problem, city council this year will launch a process of reforming the code to further align zoning with growth policy. It could also spark controversial debates, such as inclusionary zoning and other potential changes to what Missoulians currently know.

“We are launching our code reform process to ensure that we have orderly and predictable development that removes barriers while ensuring that development remains of high quality,” Hess said. “It’s a huge opportunity to get this zoning code correct. “

Development has been a problem for some over the past year while others have welcomed it, and this year it is not expected to change. There are a number of projects underway in the downtown area, and growth will continue to play out in the greater Mullan area, as well as in the Midtown area.

Missoula Mayor John Engen said growth contributes to the economic well-being of the city and is welcome as long as it respects existing city policies. Jones agreed, saying current policies will continue to guide new and future endeavors.

“We have a growth policy that talks about higher density and we really have a need for housing at all levels, and especially affordable housing,” Jones said. “We will examine everything carefully. We are in an era of change in Missoula with growth and development, just as many places across the West Mountain are experiencing.

Engen, who is now entering his fifth term as mayor, said he will deliver on the pledge he made in his last campaign – to make sure city services are up to the task and get things done.

“It’s housing, making life better all around, making sure that we have a financial build that is sustainable, an organizational build that is sustainable, and that we do the job here better than what we see done here. ‘other levels of government,’ Engen mentioned. “We have to come to the yes in several ways. We’re pretty good at it, but we need to improve. “

The November election of last year saw changes in city council. Four incumbents chose not to run and two were replaced by self-proclaimed Democratic Socialists. Turnover also saw one of the city’s most conservative contenders move to Jesse Ramos.

Board member Sandra Vasceka, whose vote is often aligned with Ramos’, has her own issues that she would like to address this year.

“It will be a lot of the same issues we face – homelessness and crime,” she said. “Crime has increased. It’s the same as when I ran my campaign two years ago – traffic and first responders, and housing affordability is going to be a big issue.