Cost of living is sky rocketing, rent continues to increase with no rent control protections, construction continues to boom but practically all of the units being built are Luxury Units, so on and so on. Our working population is being driven out of town because workers cannot afford to live here anymore. As of October, 2022 the median home value is $850,000!!! For working people, owning a home is out of the question and rental availability and affordability isn’t much better. Bozeman is a prime example of the effects of gentrification and what happens when we rely on Private Developers to fix our housing needs.
What Has Been Tried
While the housing crisis has reached a new height of terribleness, housing has been an issue for YEARS. And interestingly enough, we have been trying to implement the same ideas for decades to combat the housing problem. Ideas such as easing zoning regulations so that builders can build more (doesn’t help workers when Luxury Units are being built due to profitability), giving Low Income Housing Tax Credits to incentivize Developers to build Low Income Housing in exchange for tax breaks, Section 8 housing vouchers, etc. All of these solutions are targeted are “Market Based Solutions” aimed to incentivize Private Development to solve our problems. Well look around, have they? The Free Market has had their chance. The private sector has had 50+ years to address and find solutions to the housing crisis and it has failed.
Our Solution: Public Housing!
We need a permanent solution. We need a supply of affordable, rent stabilized, community run units. We can establish Bozeman as a city where HOUSING IS A HUMAN RIGHT. We need public housing. Public housing is housing that is owned by the city/municipality and managed through a member appointed board called a Housing Authority. I.e. your housing is not managed by a landlord or property manager, but by a board of your peers.
Why Public Housing
- Housing is a human right.
- It will be far more affordable than market units, will foster community, and give working people the dignity of being able to live in the place they work and build for a future.
- It will send a message to the working class that they are valued here.
- Increases Local Autonomy
- Housing that is controlled by the city allows for more local control to get around restrictive state laws. For example, the state local officials ability to mandate proposed developments to include a supply of affordable units (also known as inclusionary zoning).
- Montana has no form of rent control
- Public Housing would allow for increased city planning to develop smart density. This could mean designing for walkability, access to public transportation, connect to existing public infrastructure such as attaching to City Water/Sewage.
- Economic Feasibility
- Creates a revenue stream for the city to pay for the project and future projects. The city is restricted to very few revenue streams such as property taxes, impact fees, and parking tickets. A new revenue stream could actually decrease these methods providing relief to homeowners and citizens alike.
- Access to land and federal funding. Municipalities have access to low interest loans/bonds from HUD as well as connections to many stakeholders with developable land (for example, the School Board, Bozeman Deaconess, etc.).
- The project will create jobs for construction and maintenance.
Is It Doable? Who has Public Housing?
Anaconda – 170 Units. Butte – 314 Units. Great Falls – 514 Units. Helena – 366 Units. Missoula – 1,650 Units. Whitefish – 50 Units. Miles City – 134 Units.
BOZEMAN HAS 0 UNITS.
This stuff is feasible and doable! For example, Bozeman just built a new Law and Justice Center (which cost about $40 million by the way). The old police station on Rouse and Mendenhall was a City-owned, public building that was just sold to private developers (2 of which are on the Community Development Board) for $2.9 million. $1.6 million of which was subsidized by the city to turn it into “affordable housing.” The cap set on this housing is 120% of median income. At this cap, the units would cost approximately $1,800 a month for rent! What is to stop these private developers from favoring the higher income range so that they can charge $1,800 for their so-called “affordable”. Which is not affordable if you ask me. The city could’ve used that 1.6 million to convert that public property into public housing instead! These opportunities exist, and we just have to take that step.
Mr. & Mrs. Free Market has had their chance. Section 8 housing vouchers have not provided a solution. Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) have not provided a solution. The private sector has had 50+ years to address and find solutions to the housing crisis and it has failed. There is no such thing as affordable housing until property values go down. Groveling to private developers to build the units we need has not before, and it won’t magically start working now. We can build the housing we need right now! We need a permanent solution, we need a supply of actually affordable, rent stabilized units. WE NEED PUBLIC HOUSING!