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Levy proposes to help community housing needs in Bozeman

Arrowleaf Park.jpg
Posted at 3:31 PM, Oct 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-14 17:31:43-04

BOZEMAN — The November general election ballots have been mailed out and voters are expected to weigh in on several big decisions in both Gallatin County and Bozeman.

One of the city's ballot measures is a levy that city officials say could change the way commissioners can fund more affordable housing.

It’s a topic those in Bozeman are quite familiar with, and the number behind it is only going up — those in need of housing and affordable housing, at that.

So far, there are only so many apartments and other community housing locations.

But with this new seven-mill levy, if it passes, officials say it could establish a new community housing funding stream.

“Access to housing at all levels is one of the most important economic development issues facing the City of Bozeman,” said Bozeman Housing & Development Economic Development Program manager David Fine.

Growth is a weight Bozeman bears and the phenomenon of more construction sites shows how heavy that weight is to those who watch it closely like Fine.

“It is a workforce attraction issue,” Fine says. “Right now, every year, community housing competes with other priorities in the general fund; things like parks, trails, things like police, fire.”

Fine says projects — like the large Arrowleaf Park community — rely on general fund dollars and other limited tools, as enduring the budget process of city commissioners isn’t a guarantee and subject to change.

“We had a community housing fund and that fund was supported by the inclusionary zoning program that the legislature struck down in the last session,” Fine said. “This was a project where the city provided $500,000 to support federal funds that created 232 affordable rental units right here behind Lowe’s.”

Fine explained the seven mills will help increase both availability and diversity of community housing, like condos, apartments, townhomes, mobile homes, along with multi-and-single family homes — a growing need as more people move into the valley.

“It will cost the average homeowner about $34 a year and that’s expected to raise $900,000 and $1 million each year that can go towards community housing efforts,” Fine said.

So Fine looks back again at projects like Arrowleaf as reasons why a levy could create a direct fund just for opening more space for homeowners and renters.

“This is the kind of project that will allow this levy to support over 800 new units of housing in the first five years, where local money matches federal money to get high-quality rental housing in Bozeman,” Fine said.

Again, like the other ballot measures, it’s up to voters.

“Without that tool, our ability to support community housing is competing for scarce resources and we aren’t able to plan and execute on longer-term projects,” Fine stated.