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Bozeman's Future- What Lies Ahead

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

Earlier this year, we learned that Bozeman had hired the city’s first affordable housing director in an effort to generate solutions to help reduce the gap between the cost of housing and affordability. In a recent city report, 22% of homeowners were found to be spending more than 35% of their income on their mortgage payment, while 44% of the city’s renters are spending more than 35% of their income on a monthly rent payment.

With current affordability statistics this high, Bozeman’s median single-family home price having reached $398,000 last year, and the current population estimated to be above 47,000 (and growing), it’s more important than ever for this new director to begin mandating affordable housing across all types of homes.

Another New Position

Another top priority for the city, in addition to working on the creation of more affordable housing options, is the construction of a new public safety complex. Whether the city will go alone to build the new center or partner with Gallatin County is to be determined, but either way, the plan will come with a big bill that will need plenty of support before citizens vote on it.

When it comes to large city plans that have an impact on Bozeman’s future (such as affordable housing options or the new safety complex), there’s a bit of a disconnect with city hall’s goals reaching residents. In effort to better communicate the city’s plans to citizens, Bozeman will be hiring its first communications coordinator.

This new role will serve as City Hall’s voice in order to manage which information goes to the public, and how. Largely intended to be an outreach position, the person who fills the job will keep citizens informed via social media and traditional press releases and will likely step outside of the traditional 8-to-5 schedule. Although the search to fill the position is national, the job could be filled as early as April if the city finds the right applicant.

Looking Forward

When Bozeman reaches 50,000 people (and so far, it’s on track to do so very soon), a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) must be established, per the federal law. This organization will help with transportation planning and give citizens more control over what happens to the area. At this time, Bozeman will also receive federal money for future expansion projects. If the city and the county can work harmoniously together, some officials believe that an MPO would be beneficial as Bozeman continues to grow, while others are skeptical because of uncertainties with a limited pot of money and strained relationships between Bozeman and Gallatin County.

As the future unfolds and new city positions are created to help determine the direction in which Bozeman will develop, it will be interesting to see how some of the city’s current issues are solved in terms of both population growth and more affordable housing options.

A New Solution: Bozeman’s First Affordable Housing Director

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

Bozeman’s Affordable Housing Action Plan pinpointed several major strategies to implement over a 5-year timespan (2012-2016). Its purpose was to work on providing more affordable housing units and down payment assistance for both renters and homeowners alike. While this plan outlined several goals that were partially met by the end of 2016, affordable housing in Bozeman is still a significant issue that needs continued attention and work in the future.

In 2010, 28% of homeowners and 49% of renters in Bozeman were living in unaffordable housing, when using the widely accepted benchmark amount of <33% of total income for homeowners and <30% of total income for renters. It’s important to note, however, that there is no universal home price or rent benchmark that defines “affordable”— this varies by income level and should be based on ability to pay.

 By 2015, at least 4,000 of the city’s 8,400 renters were paying rents at or above the 30% threshold, while a third of homeowners were paying at least that much, if not more.

Is Something Being Done to Help?

With these statistics not having improved much in recent years, the City of Bozeman has decided to hire its first affordable housing director. The person who will fill this new position (expected to begin by the end of January) will be responsible for generating solutions to help reduce the gap between the cost of housing and how much many Bozeman residents can afford to pay.

Six months ago, Bozeman planning adopted a new rule that mandated that builders and developers would have to either sell 3 in 10 homes in new developments at $260,000 or less, OR 1 in 10 homes at $215,000 or less, subject to change based number of bedrooms per unit. The city has been trying to keep up with this rule, which is where the need for an affordable housing director stems from.

Additionally, the new director will help to track housing projects from the time a building permit is issued to the time that someone closes on their home, in order to ensure that this 6-month-old rule is followed from start to end.

As 2018 unfolds, it will be interesting to see how this new position begins to change the affordable housing market and what impacts it will have on many of Bozeman’s renters and homeowners who are currently above the income threshold for housing. 

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