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The Human Resources Development Council announced last week that it purchased a house and several acres of property in Gardiner, one of the first steps in a long fight for affordable housing in the gateway town.

“Our primary goal for this period was simply to get the property locked down and ensure that it would be available to the community,” said Tracy Menuez, HRDC’s community development director. “Now I think we start a much longer discussion with the community” about how to develop the property.

The three-bedroom house is on 4.6 acres and located on Jardine Road. Since 2015, the HRDC looked at several dozen different properties of all kinds, from small single-family homes to multi-family buildings and hotels, before the property on Jardine Road became available.

“HRDC started working with us on our housing challenges when I was president of the Greater Gardiner Community Council in 2015,” said Bill Berg in a news release announcing the purchase. “That work is now bearing fruit. Now serving as a Park County commissioner, it’s gratifying to see this important project come together for Gardiner and for Park County.”

Menuez said the next steps will be to continue to work with the Greater Gardiner Community Council and other stakeholders to determine what kind of housing would best help the people who live in Gardiner.

That will be informed by the community needs assessment, the same kind of assessment the HRDC does in communities like Bozeman and Belgrade.

“There’s not a single community where we work where housing doesn’t present itself as a problem in one way or another,” Menuez said. “From a housing perspective, (Gardiner) is facing a lot of the same issues.”

Gardiner is surrounded by federal land, so sprawling out in the way other cities sometimes do isn’t feasible.

And a lot of homes that could previously serve as workforce housing have been converted into vacation homes or short-term rentals, which shrinks the supply of housing and makes it harder for local people to compete for the supply that does exist.

“That’s sort of a tricky issue,” Menuez said. “Vacation rentals, of course, are really changing that community, but a lot of locals have to depend upon having a vacation rental in order to continue living in that community. We want to be careful not to demonize vacation rentals.”

Gardiner is in an especially unique position, Menuez said, because it’s not an officially incorporated town and doesn’t have a city government. But despite that, Gardiner residents have formed a community council and have overcome various issues, which included approaching the HRDC in 2014 to discuss solutions for affordable housing.

“They are experiencing a lot of the same housing pressures we are, but I think one of the things that has stood out from the Gardiner community from the beginning is just how much they pull together,” Menuez said.

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Melissa Loveridge can be reached at mloveridge@dailychronicle.com or at (406) 582-2651.

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