As our community continues to expand, we are all feeling the growing pains in some way or another. An area that is impacting many local businesses and residents is the affordability of workforce housing. As home prices and rental rates have increased, it has become more difficult for some Bozeman residents to live in our community. Likewise, this same issue has made it difficult for businesses to find or recruit new employees because they can't afford to live here. Over the past several months your Bozeman Area Chamber of Commerce has been working with community partners, including the City of Bozeman to identify ways that we can work together to overcome this challenge. In an effort to help develop a viable workforce housing plan for our community, the Bozeman Area Chamber of Commerce endorses the following recommendations:
1. The issue of housing encompasses three unique areas:
I) Entry assistance housing, wherein creditworthy home purchasers are unable to afford a down payment for a home or to pay market prices and payments for a home are offered subsidies for down payments and programs where the municipality provides below-market priced homes for this segment of the market.
II) Workforce housing designed to accommodate the needs of employees working in the area. This may or may not include ownership
III) Housing for those individual's incapable of sustaining traditional housing requirements such as monthly payment obligations, taxes, insurance etc. due to mental, physical limitations or life events that cause housing needs.
2. The Chamber endorses the need to establish a formula for determining the identification of workforce/affordable housing in the area. For this type of housing, the Chamber recommends expanding the definition of homes to include condominiums, apartment units, manufactured housing, modular housing, and other suitable housing options that provide safe, functional homes at prices within the guidelines described below.
3. Today, using the Housing and Urban Development 2018 Area Median Income statistic of $81,200 (family of four) Area Median Income for Gallatin County, and applying a formula using 30% of the AMI for housing costs, it's been determined the affordable living unit would be priced at or under $378,000 as of the date of this writing. Based on this number, we determine there are, as of April 26, 2018, 115 affordable homes available for purchase in Gallatin County. * We believe the housing affordability formula used by HUD is applicable to our situation and would fit hand and glove with existing FHA and VA lending guidelines, thus making it easier to receive financing for housing; thus, drive the cost of housing downward. To try and re-create formulas different than HUD guidelines would make secondary-market financing difficult if not impossible to achieve and would force the burden of financing and subsidizing housing costs directly back to the municipalities in the county through their stand-alone programs.
4. To gain public support for these programs, the Chamber recommends changing the name of the city program to include the three separate types of housing needs defined herein.
5. The Chamber recommends that any housing program designed to achieve our stated goals include a transportation consideration to transport workers and financially-stressed citizens to and from their various locations. These would include expanding services for the Streamline bus service and utilizing other transportation options.
These recommendations are provided by the Bozeman Area Chamber of Commerce as a willing and able partner in the city and county's challenge to address the issue of sustainable housing for our residents.