MTN News is continuing to track housing shortages in western Montana. Rural healthcare is one industry feeling the strain.
According to the Sanders County Housing Need Assessment, last updated in August, nearly 65% of jobs in the county are concentrated in government, retail trade, accommodations and food service, construction, and healthcare.
Over 93% of businesses reported employees having difficulty finding affordable housing, and over 67% of businesses feel that housing is the most critical or serious problem facing Sanders County. The report also found that in particular teaching and medical professions face a shortage of transitional housing for new residents.
Clark Fork Valley Hospital Chief of Medical Staff Dr. Jessica Valentine told MTN News, this amounts to extra pressure on staff amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Valentine reports a difficulty in recruiting for traveling positions and other gaps in staff, and when staff are hired, the challenge to find affordable housing can be a deal-breaker.
“There's a housing crunch right now and so it's so difficult to find rentals or places to buy here so when we are able to find someone who wants to work here, is ready to work. If they are unable to find housing sometimes they aren't willing to move here without a home to live in," Valentine explained.
A Sanders County Housing Task Force Team is working on measures to address the housing crunch. This work includes prioritizing affordable senior housing and pursuing public-private partnerships to reduce overall home prices.