Confronting Affordable Housing Needs
A critically constrained supply of both rental and for-purchase housing is having damaging effects on quality of life for many Park County families and a stranglehold on local hiring whether for professional, technical and skilled, or semi-skilled employees. Job offers are made to much-needed employees only to have the opportunities declined because of the difficulty in relocating into Livingston or other county communities.
A lack of affordable housing – no matter what income level – is perhaps the single most-discussed topic in the community. Many factors affect the situation: an increasing population as the result of the desirability of living here; the rate of new for-sale or rental housing trailing population growth; age of existing housing inventory; pressure from the Bozeman housing market increasing costs for potential home buyers and rentals; conversions of existing housing to “Airbnb” and vacation rentals properties; and few options for senior citizens to downsize and move from now-too-large homes to quality residential communities.
Believing that solutions lie more with county residents than local government, the Park County Community Foundation partnered with the Park County Extension office of Montana State University and the non-profit Human Resource Development Council to convene a first-time community council to focus on attainable best-practices and solutions. Twenty-five invited citizens are lending their experience and expertise to help identifiable, actionable solutions. Participants bring to the discussion their particular technical knowledge, experience in financial and real estate arenas, roles as developers or local-government planning, local-government leadership, employers, small business and as representatives of affected segments of the population.
Among the questions the group is seeking to answer are:
- Given state and regional social and economic drivers at work, what aspects of our local housing market are with the influence of the working group or its constituent participants?
- What resources of human and organizational capital, grant availability, private funding potential, and public finance are available to the community?
- Are restrictions on available locally-affordable housing best addressed directly through measures focused on housing supply or devoting resources toward developing community members’ economic capacity to afford housing that is moving toward higher prices over the long term?