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Providing affordable housing for essential workers may seem like an unattainable goal in the face of skyrocketing local housing prices. But the folks down in Big Sky recently proved that where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Bozeman policymakers may want to take a cue from them.

A cooperative project involving Habitat for Humanity, Big Sky schools and local taxpayers recently yielded affordable housing for teachers. Two triplexes that can house up to 12 people were built with a $400,000 contribution from the Big Sky Resort Tax Board, $600,000 from a voter-approved property tax levy and volunteer labor. The school district will act as landlord for the units. And rent varies depending on the individual teacher’s living situation.

It’s not a major development or a total solution to the affordable housing problem in Big Sky. But it’s a start and a demonstration of what can be done.

The affordable housing issue in Bozeman is headed in the wrong direction. Housing prices and rents were climbing steadily in the face of population growth and the growing demand that goes with that.

But, then along came the coronavirus pandemic. As the virus ravages big cities, real estate agents report growing numbers of migrants coming to more sparsely populated states like Montana to escape the COVID-19 threat. Agents even report out-of-state buyers snapping up homes at above asking prices over the phone, sight unseen.

That has certainly exacerbated the problem. But the same thing is happening in Big Sky and other Montana communities.

Especially notable in the success of the Big Sky project was the involvement of Habitat for Humanity of Gallatin Valley. Nongovernmental organizations like Habitat and the Human Resource Development Council have a history of creating affordable housing units for qualifying buyers. Bozeman elected leaders should continue to pursue all avenues for partnering with these groups and providing them with funding to help with the construction of lower-cost housing.

Big Sky school officials, Resort Tax Board members and voters are commended for their success in providing housing teachers can afford. Let’s work towards more successes like this one in the months and years to come.

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Editorial Board

  • Mark Dobie, publisher
  • Nick Ehli, managing editor
  • Bill Wilke, opinion page editor
  • Richard Broome, community member
  • Renee Gavin, community member
  • Will Swearingen, community member
  • Angie Wasia, community member

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