By Bay Stephens
EBS Staff Writer
BIG SKY – On Aug. 22, the Human Resource and Development Council signed the purchase agreement for the Meadowview property northwest of the Big Sky Community Park, which will create 52 units of workforce housing. The Big Sky Community Housing Trust advisory council also finalized language Aug. 16 to determine eligibility for prospective homebuyers interested in a Meadowview property or in the HRDC’s Down Payment Assistance program.
“Our President/CEO, Heather Grenier, and Jerry Scott deserve major kudos because this purchase agreement took a while to hammer out and required a lot of patience and hard work from both parties,” wrote Brian Guyer, HRDC community development manager and acting director of the housing trust, in an email. “Now we’re on to the closing.”
In February, findings were released from a housing survey distributed in 2017 with 1,112 responses from Big Sky residents and others who commute in for work from elsewhere. A housing action plan drawing on these findings was released in June, which outlines steps to provide approximately 300 community housing units within five years, target a range of housing needs the market doesn’t currently meet, and to provide community housing in step with job growth.
The Meadowview property is meant to address year-round Big Sky workers looking to buy homes but can’t afford the inflated prices of a resort market. The Big Sky Resort Area District tax board bankrolled a $1.75 million sum to subsidize the project, stipulating that the units be deed-restricted to ensure the housing stays affordable through multiple owners.
“If you only subsidize the first family then they’d get a big windfall when they sold and then we wouldn’t have anything more for future families,” said Britt Ide, a housing trust council member and executive director of the Yellowstone Club Community Foundation.
Still in early phases of construction, the Meadowview property represents a modest step toward final housing goals, but the housing trust intends it to be just the first of many projects.
At an Aug. 16 meeting, the housing trust council finalized the language of the reference manual delineating qualifications that individuals must meet to purchase a Meadowview unit, including provisions for those who leave Big Sky for certain seasons but still consider it their primary residence. The handbook is intended for use in future projects as well.
The housing trust has avoided using a point system to determine eligibility due to confusion and discontent such a system has caused in the past. Instead, they have opted to use the eligibility requirements with priority determined by the date one submits their application. To apply for a Meadowview unit, qualified individuals must first participate in a home-buyer assistance class and a homeowner counseling session with the HRDC.
“This is a huge investment in our community, and it makes sense because the resort tax is paid a lot by tourists, and the people that are housed here are supporting the tourist economy,” Ide said, referring to BSRAD’s $1.75 million of funding. “We can’t have a town without people living here.”
The housing trust council also put final touches on the qualifications list for the HRDC’s Big Sky version of the Down Payment Assistance program, a separate project that targets a similar demographic as Meadowview. According to Ide, the YCCF and BSRAD contributed starting-funds to create the program which, instead of providing subsidized housing, will help qualified individuals pay the large down payment sum on a home.
Visit thehrdc.org to read the Big Sky Community Housing Action Plan released in June.