Construction

Houses go up across from Gallatin High School on Friday evening in Bozeman.

A new Bozeman draft housing plan suggests the city find more money for housing efforts, create ways to hold onto affordable units for the long run, and mandate developers build condominiums and rentals below going rates.

The city released the draft Bozeman Community Housing Action Plan on Friday. The document is supposed to outline how Bozeman will respond to its housing shortage and climbing prices.

“It’s a plan that recognizes affordable housing impacts the entire community and needs an entire response from the community,” said Bozeman Commissioner Terry Cunningham.

A workgroup that included Bozeman and Gallatin County leaders, builders, bankers, housing advocates and others weighed in on the plan.

The 31-page document includes creating permanent housing for people who need emergency shelter, going after federal dollars to build subsidized rentals and increasing taxes to build homes first-time buyers can afford.

A recent housing assessment showed the town needs as many as 6,340 new homes in the next five years. To match the town’s workforce, more than half of those properties need to come in below Bozeman’s going prices.

Permits filed with the city to build show developers are on track to create that number of homes — but not at prices deemed affordable.

Rev. Connie Campbell-Pearson, a housing plan workgroup member representing Gallatin Valley Interfaith, said the draft gives Bozeman a chance to swing trends in a different direction.

“Some of the ideas are already happening in Bozeman, but not on a big scale,” she said. “It’s not a perfect plan, we know that, but we feel like we can actually tackle some of this stuff in Bozeman. It will take work and the whole community.”

The plan suggests the city expands its housing mandate and incentives beyond single-family homes for sale to include condos and rentals.

As the city’s rule stands, if a developer creates a subdivision, a percent of the homes built have to sell below market rates. The city has faced some criticism for not including multi-family housing in that mandate.

Some within the building industry would push back against new rules and, for now, Montana law stops cities from regulating rentals.

To remove potential barriers to creating housing, the draft calls on the city to review its rules that could add to building costs.

A focus of the planning effort has been to find ways to pull organizations together to work on Bozeman’s housing headaches. The draft sets a goal to create a framework for the city to partner with the private sector to build housing on publicly owned sites.

The draft also looks at new ways to collect more money toward housing projects through tax districts and federal tax credits.

While affordable housing has been a long-time issue in Bozeman, the town has a much shorter history of finding ways to maintain affordable prices. The plan suggests creating a Community Land Trust organization that can manage ground leases that keep the homes on the land affordable beyond the first sale.

Brian Popiel, with Southwest Montana Building Industry Association, said he appreciates the city pulled a broad range of input to draft the plan. He said the plan builds toward more questions around what to do next.

“If we look at it as we’re going to chip away at this from a whole bunch of angles, it’s pretty positive,” Popiel said. “If we make a decision that affordable housing and subsidized housing are the same thing and how that’s paid for, that’s where it could get sticky.”

People have 30 days to view the document on the city of Bozeman website and offer feedback before it goes to the city commission for a final vote.

Katheryn Houghton can be reached at khoughton@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2628. Follow her on Twitter @K_Hought.

Support quality local journalism. Become a subscriber.

Subscribers get full, survey-free access to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle's award-winning coverage both on our website and in our e-edition, a digital replica of the print edition.