By Sarah Gianelli EBS Associate Editor

BIG SKY – At a Sept. 21 meeting of the Big Sky Community Housing Trust, the volunteer-based advisory board was enthused to be getting close to finalizing a down payment assistance program for potential area home buyers.

Although there’s still some contractual legalese to establish and the trust anticipates having only $100,000 to launch the program, the board plans to intensify fundraising efforts while moving forward the program. The starting amount is subject to change—depending on the level of commitment from local banks—and the trust’s ultimate goal is to establish a revolving loan fund of $500,000.

“We’re not going to wait to get started,” said Britt Ide, executive director of the Yellowstone Club Community Foundation advisory board. “We’re going to move ahead with what we have.”

The board wants to have evidence of the program’s success, even if only on a small scale, when they apply for funding from the Big Sky Resort Area District resort tax board in the spring of 2018.

“I’m excited about this,” said Big Sky Western Bank Manager Tim Kent, who’s lending his expertise in loans to the trust. “I feel like we’re that close to be able to do something here.”

Brian Guyer, HRDC community development manager, announced that the organization is still pursuing the Bough Big Sky Community Subdivision in South Fork Meadows, despite a denial of the preliminary plat approval by the Gallatin County Commission last February. The developer, Lone Mountain Land Company, is planning to resubmit the project to the county in October.

The board also discussed ways to incentivize largely absentee homeowners to make their properties long-term rentals rather than short-term vacation rentals.

The board plans to cull incentive package from the community. Brian Wheeler, director of real estate and development at Big Sky Resort, said he would find out what the resort might be willing to contribute in the form of ski passes, lodging for displaced homeowners or discounts. Guyer said he would investigate whether property management services could be included in the package.

The BSCHT board decided to target a list of smaller unit, short term rental properties and contact their owners once the incentive package was solidified.

After Sarah Gaither of Big Sky Community Food Bank shared a troubling housing-related story about a family that had been living in tents because they were $200 short on a rental deposit, the board decided to take steps to establish a deposit fund to assist individuals in this predicament.

Finally, the board unanimously agreed to hire Wendy Sullivan Consulting Group out of Jackson, Wyoming, to conduct a resort tax-funded affordable housing study.

“Their business is resort communities and that will be of great value to Big Sky,” Guyer said. “I think we’ll get a well-informed housing implementation package from them.”

“We want hard stats,” said Ide. “And more than data we want a concrete plan on how to move forward with affordable housing in Big Sky. Make that absolutely clear.”

The next meeting of the Big Sky Community Housing Trust is on Thursday, Oct. 19 at 1:30 p.m. at Big Sky Western Bank.