Affordable housing in Bozeman is a big issue. Low mortgage rates, high demand, and lack of supply drove home prices up, not to mention a global pandemic that really shook things up. This contributed to the rapid growth Bozeman has been dealing with over the past several years and has made affordable housing practically non-existent. While the real estate market in Bozeman has calmed down, home prices in Bozeman remain high. The city commission and everyone agree that affordable housing in Bozeman is the #1 priority, but tackling this comes with challenges.
It’s not just one thing creating affordability problems. The number of people moving to Bozeman, the high cost of land and construction materials, out-of-state cash buyers, and lack of inventory are all adding to Bozeman's affordable housing issues. The price of a land lot has gone up drastically, which makes it difficult for a builder or developer to build an affordable home. The popularity of people moving to small, mountain towns isn’t going to slow down and this influx certainly drives prices up.
Gallatin County is the fastest-growing county in Montana and Bozeman is the fastest-growing city of its size in the U.S. Many people new to Bozeman are coming from larger metropolitan areas and Bozeman home prices seem like a bargain in comparison. With the increase of people working remotely, people can continue to make high wages and afford Bozeman real estate prices. This makes it hard for people living and working in Bozeman, especially when wages in Bozeman are below national averages. Click here to read our post on 10 ways Bozeman has changed in the last 10 years.
The Human Resource Development Council has been serving Gallatin County since 1975 and has been working hard to come up with solutions to the affordability issues in Bozeman. The Willow Springs Townhomes is one of the ways they are doing this. The project was completed in 2021 with 24 units in the northwest area of Bozeman. The Willow Springs Townhomes offered 2 and 3-bedroom options with attached single-car garages and yard space. They are 100% owner-occupied while the land they are on is owned by the Community Land Trust. This ensures the home buyers build equity in the home and it becomes a stepping stone for them to get into the housing market.
The HRDC can also offer information and guidance for first-time homebuyers, down payment assistance programs, housing first initiatives, and foreclosure intervention. They manage over 400 affordable housing units and are actively helping so many people in our Bozeman community. Learn more about Bozeman's upcoming affordable housing solutions here.
There are other affordable housing projects in the works like the Bridger View homes and the Arrowleaf and Perennial Park apartments. The Bridger View homes are a mix of market-rate and affordable homes managed through Headwaters Community Housing Trust. The Arrowleaf and Perennial Park apartments share a site with Family Promise and Community Health Partners, with the Perennial Park units being an age-restricted senior housing building.
Previously, in Bozeman's Affordable Housing Ordinance, if a developer was building more than ten units in a subdivision, 10% of them were required to be affordable, or they could pay cash in lieu which then went back into affordable housing programs in Bozeman. However, House Bill 259 passed which changed this requirement. Examples of how the previous ordinance contributed positively can be seen in the upcoming phase 4 of Allison subdivision. The developer will be building affordable townhomes that will be available to the public. The south side location near Morning Star Elementary is very desirable, making this an exciting opportunity. This is similar to a previous developer who built in the Lakes at Valley West. Four of the townhomes were affordable, and the homeowners came from HRDC’s pool of qualified candidates. Getting more developers on board with building affordable housing like this would make a big impact on the community. The city is currently reviewing codes that guide development to focus on speeding the construction and preserving affordable homes in Bozeman.
Turnrow is another example of the city finding creative ways to find solutions. The city used American Rescue Plan grant money and invested $5 million dollars to build sewage infrastructure. For that. the developer is giving a 5-acre tract of land that will be used for affordable housing. They plan to provide 100 units on the land that is located near Billings Clinic. This is a new approach for both the city and the developer and something the city hopes to continue as they try to find more attainable housing for the community. Construction on Turnrow is expected to begin in 2024.
The median sales price of a single-family home in Bozeman hovers over $900,000, and the median sale price of condos and townhomes is now over $500,000. It is becoming more difficult to find a home in Bozeman under $500,000, and the inventory is incredibly low, making this price point even more competitive. There are some newer condo developments that have been on the lower end of the price range.
The CentrePark Flats is a development on the west side of town behind Home Depot and backing to Rose Park. The first two buildings sold out quickly but units do periodically come up for sale under $500k. Talbach House is a more established condo building on the south side of Bozeman and it often has units come up for sale. They are usually listed under $500,000 and offer amenities such as an on-site gym and high-end finishes. The Bronzeleaf Condos are in the northwest part of town, across the street from Meadowlark Elementary School and near the new high school. They have covered carports and storage closets and usually come on the market listed under $400,000.
When Bozeman home prices started taking off, Belgrade became an affordable alternative to Bozeman. However, Belgrade home prices have been increasing at a faster rate than Bozeman for the past two years so they are quickly catching up. That being said, the median sale price of a single-family home in Belgrade is 31% lower than Bozeman* making it an option many people consider when buying a home. It is also where builders are heading because there are fewer regulations, fees, and hurdles when it comes to development.
Beyond Belgrade, people are looking to Manhattan, Three Forks, Ennis, and Livingston as alternatives to living in Bozeman. While Manhattan is a great small community, the housing inventory is low, home prices are not far behind Bozeman's, and they have had recent tax increases due to new schools being built. Three Forks and Livingston are also great options, but it’s important to keep in mind the extra cost of gas when commuting. For more information on these communities, get our guide to moving to Belgrade, a guide to moving to Livingston, or our guide to moving to Manhattan. If Bozeman or the surrounding areas are out of the question, here are ten other small Montana towns to consider.
Several years ago the downtown Boulevard Apartments building was sold to HRDC so it could remain affordable for those who need it. Bob Rasmus, the owner, bought the building 24 years ago and continued to rent the 41 units to people who were struggling to find housing. This property is highly desirable and he had several high-price offers but chose to sell to the nonprofit. This was a win for the community and a stark difference from what happened to the Lovelace building on Main Street. This building was sold and all residential tenants received eviction notices so that the building could be turned into luxury condos and offices. We are so thankful for people like Mr. Rasmus who are making a difference in Bozeman's affordability problems.
There is no easy answer to the affordable housing struggle in Bozeman. Being involved in what is happening in local politics is important because this is where many decisions regarding housing affordability happen. Going to city commission meetings and being involved is an important part of making changes in Bozeman's affordable housing problems. Looking for opportunities to be a part of programs such as the Community Affordable Housing Action Board and volunteering through HRDC to help those struggling with the high cost of living is also a great way to make an impact. Even simpler than that, is keeping our money local. Shop the small businesses in Bozeman rather than the big box stores to support our neighbors and friends. Help continue the strong sense of community Bozeman has by being involved and helping each other out. Housing affordability will not be an overnight fix, but we don't want Bozeman to lose the sense of community that makes it such a wonderful place.
*Gallatin Association of Realtors, Domus
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