City of Missoula and University of Montana leaders launched a new Community Quality of Life Initiative on Monday, Dec. 10, pledging to work together on a variety of methods to enhance student housing options and improve neighborhood relations.
Mayor John Engen, University of Montana President Royce Engstrom and Associated Students of UM President Zach Brown signed a memorandum of understanding regarding the initiative at the UM president’s residence in the University District.
The parties agreed to work together to create up to 1,000 units of safe, affordable student housing close to campus within two years. They also will cooperate on expanding the city’s quality of life program, ASUM’s Neighborhood Ambassador Program and UM-community outreach efforts.
Involving both ASUM and the UM Office of Public Safety, the expanded programs will educate about and enforce laws on issues such as speeding, underage drinking at parties, parking, littering, animal welfare, and neighbor-to-neighbor relations.
The partnership will go a long way toward calming long-term tensions in the neighborhood, Mayor Engen said.
“We’ve been working together to find a way to address long-standing concerns in our community in a meaningful, positive way,” Engen said. “This initiative is deliberate, practical and, frankly, overdue. I’m excited to work with our partners in this effort to make Missoula an even better place for all of her citizens.”
Engstrom said the goal of the initiative is to increase the quantity and quality of affordable housing for students, improve all city neighborhoods through a quality of life program, and improve transportation and parking options for all residents.
“Our community is among this University’s greatest assets, and vice-versa,” Engstrom said. “It is in everyone’s interest to further improve our relationship. We want to be the best of neighbors and true partners, and we want to demonstrate that – not just by having good intentions, but also by taking action.”
ASUM leadership is pleased to be part of a consolidated approach to providing safe near-campus housing that is appropriate and affordable for students, Brown said. The partners also will work to improve existing rental housing through basic regulation of residential rental property. That work will include the Missoula City Council, the Montana Legislature and the private sector and will emphasize safety, code enforcement, education and neighborhood courtesy.
“Students and permanent residents are invested in the future of this community, and the ASUM leadership is fully committed to improving relationships moving forward,” Brown said. “The University, its students and the community of Missoula are all inextricably linked, but collaboration between these groups has not always been evident. The signing of this document signals a new trend of leadership in this community that is very exciting to me.”