Affordable Housing

Construction workers lay plywood on the roof of a new affordable housing development on Feb. 19 off Tschache Lane.

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Bozeman voters may see a ballot measure to increase property taxes this fall after city commissioners this week showed support for mill levies to fund affordable housing and repairs to a few city facilities.

During a commission meeting Tuesday, all four city commissioners showed support for three proposed tax measures: two for a bond to fund the relocation of a fire station and repairs to Bogert Pool, the Bozeman Swim Center and the Lindley Center, which would show up as separate ballot questions for the same bond; and a third for a levy to fund affordable housing efforts.

For a median-value home of $354,000, the three proposed measures would cost $58.88 in property taxes each year.

Commissioners will have to formally vote on the questions before August to get them on the ballot. State law limits Bozeman’s ability to increase property taxes each year, but the city may ask voters for levies targeted for specific purposes.

The city is proposing a 7 mill levy to help fund affordable housing projects, but commissioners on Tuesday suggested the rate be adjustable annually with a cap of 7 mills. The property tax increase could raise more than $9.5 million in the next decade.

Deputy Mayor Terry Cunningham, who suggested the city look into the measure late last year, said Bozeman’s housing market is in dire need of financial support.

“Our town is being hollowed out from the middle,” Cunningham said. “So what is the effect of this lack of affordable housing on Bozeman? A high percentage of our workforce commutes from elsewhere. All you have to do is drive North 19th or North Seventh at rush hour, and you’ll see the cars. That’s our workforce, coming in from out of town, or going home at night.”

The city, through a potential ballot measure to increase property taxes, is asking its residents to help support housing and sustain the city, Cunningham said.

Cunningham also questioned City Manager Jeff Mihelich on what other options the city has to address high housing costs.

The Montana Legislature is considering a bill to prohibit inclusionary zoning, a key part of Bozeman’s affordable housing strategy that requires developers of large projects to provide a certain number of affordable housing units or pay a fee to the city.

With inclusionary zoning at risk and other options limited by state law, Mihelich said the city will not meet its goal of building more than 6,000 homes in five years to accommodate growth.

“As much as we’re trying hard, we’ve been falling short of meeting those goals,” Mihelich said. “Which … is why this mill levy is a way for us to try to create revenue to get us back on track to try to meet those goals.”

A few commissioners questioned whether facility repairs and relocating a fire station were necessary to prioritize over building new facilities, but each signaled support for the suggested measures.

Mihelich said the Swim Center, Bogert Pool and the Lindley Center are each in desperate need of repairs.

All were built in the 20th century, and Bogert Pool was built in 1938. Even the location of Fire Station 2 on 19th Avenue shows its age — Finance Director Kristin Donald said when it was built in 1974, it was on the city’s western frontier.

“These facilities need to be … band-aided immediately or else they could fall into such disrepair that they may not be usable at all,” Mihelch said.

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Nora Shelly can be reached at or 406-582-2607.

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