Affordable housing is a big issue in Bozeman. Low mortgage rates, high demand, and lack of supply have been driving 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. The city commission and everyone in Bozeman agree that affordable housing in our community is the #1 priority, but tackling Bozeman's affordable housing issue comes with challenges.
What is contributing to Bozeman's affordability issues?
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 median sales price of a land lot (up to 1/2-acre) in Bozeman is $249,950, 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 of population 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 well below national averages. Click here to read our post on 10 ways Bozeman has changed in the last 10 years.
HRDC Affordable Housing Projects
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. Their latest project, the Willow Springs Townhomes is one of the ways they are doing this. The project was recently completed with 24 units in the northwest area of Bozeman. The Willow Springs Townhomes offer 2 and 3 bedroom options with attached single-car garages and yard space. These will be 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. In order to get on the waitlist for these units, you need to fill out an application through HRDC and take their HUD-certified homebuyer education course. All of this can be found on their website. There are other affordable housing projects in the future, however, HRDC helps the community in many different facets and currently, the warming shelter has taken some of the priority. HRDC can also offer information and guidance for first-time homebuyers, down payment assistance programs, housing first initiatives, and foreclosure intervention. They manage over 300 affordable housing units and are actively helping so many people in our Bozeman community.
The Bridger View Redevelopment is another HRDC project that recently broke ground near the Story Mill Community Park. Half of the units will be part of the Community Land Trust, similar to Willow Springs Townhomes where qualified buyers will own the unit. These homes will be kept permanently affordable. The development will bring 62 homes to the 8-acre area and city commissioners gave preliminary approval in May 2020. The first homes are expected to be ready for sale in February 2022 and fully completed by spring 2023. What's really great about this project is the affordably priced homes will be mixed in with the homes sold at market rate.
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 recently passed which will change 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. 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 were from HRDC’s huge pool of qualified candidates. Getting more developers on board with this could be a win for the community. The city is currently reviewing codes that guide development to focus on speeding the construction and preserving affordable homes in Bozeman.
Condo and Townhouse Options
With the median sales price of a single-family home in Bozeman hovering at $770,000, more affordable options are condos or townhomes where the median sale price is between $435,000-$480,000.* The downside is the inventory for homes in this price range is incredibly low, making it very competitive. There are some new condo projects coming up in Bozeman, both coming on the market for sale and as rentals, but currently, we are in a waiting period for the supply and demand to balance out, especially in these price ranges.
The CentrePark Flats is a new development that has entered the final phase of development. The first two buildings sold out quickly. Units in the new building are coming on the market and start at $435,000. They are located behind Home Depot, backing to Rose Park. 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 $400,000 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 $325,000.
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 average sale price of a single-family home in Belgrade is 31% lower than Bozeman* so it is still 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, 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.
What Can We Do?
A couple of 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 can 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, InfoSparks