2019-08-28 HDRC

HRDC members break ground on the Willow Springs Townhomes that will create 24 units about 35% below Bozeman’s market rates.

A small crowd stood in a Bozeman field Wednesday to a backdrop of cattails leading toward piles of dirt that will become townhomes for those who can’t afford a home because of the area’s housing prices.

The Human Resource Development Council project called Willow Springs Townhomes will create 24 homes on the less than 3-acre site at Hoover Way and Sartain Street.

At a groundbreaking for the first 12 homes Wednesday, HRDC President Heather Grenier said the two-bedroom homes will sell for roughly $217,000 and three-bedroom homes will go for $243,000.

That’s about 35% below Bozeman’s market rates, Grenier said.

“The market has gone up about 8% this year alone, and has consistently gone up year over year,” she said.

In the meantime, there are more than 200 families on the city’s affordable homeownership waitlist.

The majority of the money to build the Willow Spring project stems from a federal grant through the Housing and Economic Recovery Act to put blighted land to use following the 2008 recession.

The nonprofit “recycled” that money a few times by building and selling houses in a series of projects, starting with the 83 units in the West Edge Condominiums.

The Willow Springs homes are different in that they’ll remain affordable beyond the first round of homebuyers. The nonprofit is able to hold onto those below-market prices through a community land trust.

Bozeman Commissioner Terry Cunningham said that strategy is “a big idea for Bozeman” as it juggles how to connect people to housing long-term.

“The American dream I think has a catchphrase and that is ‘I’m home,’” Cunningham said.

He said while the HRDC project is a major step in that dream for Bozeman, it only reaches 10% of people on the city’s waitlist.

The city of Bozeman is in the midst of remaking its Affordable Housing Action Plan. In that effort, a cohort of volunteers have carved out ideas on how to make housing more attainable, such as proposing new taxes for a housing fund, more incentives to build affordable homes and relying on community land trusts.

A recent city housing assessment stated Bozeman needs 6,340 new homes by 2025 for the town’s population. More than half of those would need to fall below market rates to serve Bozeman’s demographics.

The Willow Springs homes will be available to those on the city’s who have finished a HUD-certified homebuyer education course.

At the groundbreaking Wednesday, Kyla Tengdin said she’s been on that list for two years and has finished two homebuyer education courses.

Tengdin, 28, works for a Bozeman nonprofit and her husband is in graduate school and plans to be a teacher. Over those two years, she moved up in her job while her husband went from his undergrad to substitute teaching.

Tengdin said she’s heard people say if families like hers work hard enough and long enough, they’ll eventually be able to afford their spot in town.

“It’s just not going to be in the cards for us,” Tengdin said, adding the prices will always outpace the family’s income.

“We don’t want more than we need. We want a small footprint and a separate room so we can have a baby someday,” Tengdin said. “Today is like a ray of hope that we might have an option to stay.”

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

Katheryn Houghton is the city government and health reporter for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

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