Tanya Andreasen

Tanya Andreasen sits in an office at the Alfred M. Stiff Professional Building Friday, Jan. 10, 2020, in Bozeman.

The city of Bozeman hired the next person charged with managing its housing program just as city leaders prepare to pick their next steps to help people access housing they can afford.

Before becoming the city’s next housing manager this month, Tanya Andreasen spent about 20 years in jobs that crossed public health and housing, primarily in Alaska.

“I tend to think being safe is a basic human need,” Andreasen said. “Having a home, a safe home, and a home that is livable is crucial to our daily lives.”

Andreasen grew up in Bozeman and returned roughly five years ago for a masters in public administration from Montana State University. For the past two years, she worked as the city of Bozeman’s neighborhood coordinator, which she said taught her how Bozeman’s governance works.

She’ll be the third person to take the job focused on the city’s housing issues and response. City commissioners created the position two years ago amid a rising problem of people struggling to find housing in a market that favors luxury.

The city’s first housing manager left after seven months. The second manager was fired six months in, before his probationary period ended. City staff have been vague on why those first picks didn’t last.

Community Development Director Marty Matsen said Andreasen’s experience the last few years means she knows exactly what she’s getting into and that she’s already worked with city staff and residents.

Matsen said the housing program also has a clearer path than two years ago. He said as part of that, the position managing the program now has a new title: community housing program manager, a change from affordable housing manager.

“We’re trying to take some of that focus off of defining the word ‘affordable’ and really talking about it more as a community conversation,” Matsen said. “How does everybody here afford to live? Across income levels.”

Bozeman’s housing issues span the spectrum. That includes a growing number of people at risk of losing housing, those who can’t find a place to rent that leaves enough money leftover for groceries or savings, and those who can’t afford to buy a home.

At the moment, the city’s housing program’s focus is on first-time homebuyers. That could broaden soon.

While there has been a lot of turnover in the housing program’s short history, the city has crossed off some of its big priorities over two years.

Bozeman’s first housing manager helped roll out a rule for developers to make sure new large subdivisions include some housing sold below market rates. Since, 12 homes have come out of that program.

The city’s second housing manager helped lead the creation of Bozeman’s housing action plan, which commissioners adopted in November.

That document called for the city’s efforts to reach more income levels — beyond people with good credit who are ready to buy a house. It also propped up the city working with other groups to do that, like nonprofits and the area’s major employers.

The plan laid out more than 70 actions the city could take. On Monday, commissioners will pull their next steps from that list in how Bozeman responds to its housing issues.

Matsen said Monday’s decision will tell his department and Andreasen what to prioritize on the long list staff are already working on.

“I think Monday night is really the conversation that we’re holding our breath for and Tuesday morning, it will be ‘OK, here’s what we’re doing,’” Matsen said.

Andreasen and other city staff are quick to say a housing manager isn’t Bozeman’s cure to expensive living. Or as the city put it in Monday’s agenda, “no one entity can solve the local housing challenges by itself.”

Andreasen said whatever comes from commissioners Monday, there’s a lot of work left to refine the housing program and to tie together the work happening within city hall and across town.

“I think with the work that has happened and our growing understanding of the issues around housing, we’re ready to get some work done,” she said.

Katheryn Houghton can be reached at khoughton@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2628.

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