Bozeman’s Affordable Housing Action Plan pinpointed several major strategies to implement over a 5-year timespan (2012-2016). Its purpose was to work on providing more affordable housing units and down payment assistance for both renters and homeowners alike. While this plan outlined several goals that were partially met by the end of 2016, affordable housing in Bozeman is still a significant issue that needs continued attention and work in the future.
In 2010, 28% of homeowners and 49% of renters in Bozeman were living in unaffordable housing, when using the widely accepted benchmark amount of <33% of total income for homeowners and <30% of total income for renters. It’s important to note, however, that there is no universal home price or rent benchmark that defines “affordable”— this varies by income level and should be based on ability to pay.
By 2015, at least 4,000 of the city’s 8,400 renters were paying rents at or above the 30% threshold, while a third of homeowners were paying at least that much, if not more.
Is Something Being Done to Help?
With these statistics not having improved much in recent years, the City of Bozeman has decided to hire its first affordable housing director. The person who will fill this new position (expected to begin by the end of January) will be responsible for generating solutions to help reduce the gap between the cost of housing and how much many Bozeman residents can afford to pay.
Six months ago, Bozeman planning adopted a new rule that mandated that builders and developers would have to either sell 3 in 10 homes in new developments at $260,000 or less, OR 1 in 10 homes at $215,000 or less, subject to change based number of bedrooms per unit. The city has been trying to keep up with this rule, which is where the need for an affordable housing director stems from.
Additionally, the new director will help to track housing projects from the time a building permit is issued to the time that someone closes on their home, in order to ensure that this 6-month-old rule is followed from start to end.
As 2018 unfolds, it will be interesting to see how this new position begins to change the affordable housing market and what impacts it will have on many of Bozeman’s renters and homeowners who are currently above the income threshold for housing.