Montana Public Radio

Bozeman Greenlights 200 Affordable Rental Units, Housing Needs Remain

Aug 27, 2020
Originally published on August 26, 2020 6:26 pm

As real estate prices and rent continue to rise in Bozeman, a new, large scale affordable living project has moved one step closer to becoming a reality.

City commissioners on Aug. 25 voted unanimously in favor of the Arrowleaf Park and Perennial Park development plan in north Bozeman.

Commissioner Terry Cunningham put it this way.

“If a genie were to pop out of a lamp and say, ‘I’ll give you one wish to address Bozeman’s big problems,' and I made that wish, that wish would look a lot like this,” Cunningham said.

The development proposal includes over 200 long term affordable rental units for people making between 50 and 70 percent of the area median income of over $60,000 a year.

Perennial Park would provide housing for active seniors, or people over 55 years of age who don’t need assistance, and space for Community Health Partners’ medical, dental and mental health clinics, as well as a pharmacy.

Arrowleaf Park would offer family housing, a community center and an early child care center run by the non profit Family Promise in collaboration with Montana State University. It could serve 96 kids, ranging from infants to five year olds.

The site is also close to a grocery store, jobs and a bus stop.

The more than $60 million development is a partner project between Human Resource Development Council (HRDC) in Bozeman and GMD Development, a Seattle based company. Chris Saunders with the city’s planning department said Bozeman had worked with GMD before this project.

City Manager Jeff Mihelich said Bozeman has a goal of adding 200 to 300 affordable housing units each year.

“This is going to put a significant dent in it and I will say, we have a long, long way to go,” Mihelich said.

Bozeman needs around 6,000 more housing units by 2025, according to a community needs assessment the city released last year. Sixty percent of the units need to be below market rate.

Rent has increased by around 40 percent since 2012, and over half of Bozeman’s households are spending more than more than 30 percent of their monthly income on rent and utilities. Generally, 30 percent is considered the threshold for affordable housing.

The rise in real estate prices and rent haven’t slowed down with the coronavirus pandemic. The Montana Free Press reports people looking to escape urban areas hit especially hard by the pandemic have been moving to the Bozeman, Missoula and Flathead areas.

The median price of a single family home in Bozeman is nearly half a million dollars, according to Zillow. That’s a nearly seven percent increase from the year before. The median rent price is over 1800.

While the commissioners’ green light for the Arrowleaf Park and Perennial Park plan was a significant step, developers still need approval for a Low Income Housing Tax Credit from the Montana Board of Housing before breaking ground this fall.

Tracy Menuez, HRDC’s Associate Director, told YPR the tax credit would cover around one third of the project’s budget. The remaining costs would be paid for with a combination of long term debt, partner investments and other credits. The City's Affordable Housing Advisory Board has recommended a $500,000 commitment to support the project.

The developers’ timeline to complete the project is November next year.

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