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Community leaders hope to raise $10M for workforce housing in Bozeman

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Posted at 12:02 PM, Jul 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-01 14:02:14-04

BOZEMAN - The housing crisis in Bozeman has been a problem that community leaders have been trying to solve for years.

Now with the creation of a new community fund they hope that this will bring some solutions to a crisis that has challenged residents in the area.

“I don’t want to live in a community that is a—where it’s just a resort community for the super-rich. That is not what Bozeman is about, it’s not our roots, it’s not where we want to be,” said Bozeman Deputy Mayor Terry Cunningham.

Cunningham says it’s difficult to watch housing prices continue to skyrocket. “It’s been frustrating for the city because we have so few tools in order to bring workforce housing projects out of the ground."

With this new $10 million fund goal, leaders are beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

“Housing prices have gotten away from us a little bit, rent affordability a little bit, so we started talking a little bit more about an investment fund that would help with the supply side of some of the issues we have going on,” said First Security Bank President and CEO Jim Ness.

For Ness, housing affordability is something his employees are struggling with. That’s one of the reasons the bank is pledging the first $1 million to the fund.

“As I talk to my employees and I hear some of their situations, I hear things like were having 3 roommates, 4 roommates, 6 roommates, maybe sharing a bedroom with somebody. I think the quality of life is a challenge,” says Ness.

That’s what inspired Ness to approach Deputy Mayor Cunningham with an idea to collaborate and create a find geared towards tackling housing affordability in Gallatin Valley.

The fund is aimed at helping workforce housing projects get off the ground and coming in with money to close the gap on funding. Part of the fund will also aid in getting home loans. Leaders hope that this investment in the community will inspire more people to create roots in the Gallatin Valley.

“Private enterprise, bankers, other community partners are stepping up and contributing to this fund, sends a great message to the community that we're in this together,” said Cunningham.

They say a healthy workforce is the foundation to a city like Bozeman.

“If we don’t have an active workforce and I believe that workforce housing is an impediment to that right now and I want to help and solve that problem,” Ness said.

Even with all the construction, Ness says a piece of the puzzle is missing.

“There is a lot of construction going on in Bozeman right now and there are a lot of apartments going in which is great, and there is a need for that too but the area I see for that need is for that affordability category,” he said.

Ness and Cunningham are optimistic about gathering community support to tackle a community-wide problem.

“This certainly isn’t the silver bullet that is going to get it done, but I think it’s a part of the solution,” said Ness.