Big Sky School District's affordable housing ribbon cutting

Habitat for Humanity of Gallatin Valley staff, volunteers and supporters gather for the ribbon cutting of Big Sky School District’s first staff affordable housing unit on Oct. 30.

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The first teachers to live in the Big Sky School District’s affordable housing units moved in this month.

The affordable housing project, a joint venture between Habitat for Humanity of Gallatin Valley and the school district, will provide affordable housing for staff in its three schools.

“It’s a big community project,” said David Magistrelli, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Gallatin Valley. “We might be a catalyst or a facilitator, but we’re only able to do this because the community recognized the need of housing for the teachers to help strengthen the educational process.”

The affordable housing consists of two triplexes with six units, and can house up to 12 individuals, Magistrelli said. The first apartment in one of the triplexes was completed at the end of October, and two teachers moved in on Nov. 1.

The Big Sky Resort Tax Board gave $400,000 to help fund the construction of the housing units. In 2019, voters also approved a $600,000 mill levy to help fund the triplexes, located near Lone Peak High School.

“Housing is one of the biggest challenges in this community for most any worker, and it’s really important for the district and trustees to make the community more livable for teachers,” said Dustin Shipman, superintendent of Big Sky School District.

Each apartment, at just over 1,000 square feet, is a two-bedroom unit with a garage, Shipman said.

The school district, which acts as housing landlord, put out applications among its staff earlier this year. Shipman said rent was a on a sliding scale, depending on the situation of the teacher.

It two teachers live together in a unit, rent is $1,000 per month. If a teacher plans to move in with a non-school employee, like a partner or family member, rent is $1,500. If a teacher lives in the unit alone, rent is 27%-28% of their school district salary.

The original plan was to have both of the triplexes completed by August, but the COVID-19 pandemic caused delays and limited the number of volunteers who were able to work on the units, Magistrelli said.

The groundbreaking on the two units took place in summer 2019, but planning between the nonprofit and school district began in 2017.

Magistrelli said the project benefited from a lot of local volunteers, including students, parents and teachers from the district.

The other two units in the first building are scheduled to be ready for occupancy by early December. Work on the second triplex will continue through the winter and is scheduled to be move-in ready by late spring of 2021.

Shipman said the district was excited to be able to make the town more livable for faculty and staff.

“Right now we’re in a housing crisis in Big Sky, with people paying a lot of money to rent one room in a condo and have roommates they don’t know,” he said.

Shipman said like other districts in the state, there’s a fair amount of staff turnover. The high cost of living in a rural, expensive area contributes to that.

“We’re thrilled that we were able to recognize a problem within our own organization and solve that with a community partner,” he said.

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Liz Weber can be reached at lweber@dailychronicle.com or 582-2633.

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