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Workforce housing remains top Big Sky concern

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The Big Sky Housing Trust was awarded $6.49 million in November for the RiverView workforce housing project. Here, crews work across Highway 64 from the RiverView site, on the modular Powder Light workforce housing in late December. OUTLAW PARTNERS PHOTO

State awards nearly $7M to local efforts

By Bella Butler 

Workforce housing issues in Big Sky are nothing new. In 2013, EBS ran a three-part series on the local housing crisis. Ron Edwards, general manager of the Big Sky County Water and Sewer District, remembers the challenges being prevalent nearly 30 years ago.

“It was the same in ’95,” Edwards told EBS in 2013. “I remember going to a realtor, trying to find somewhere [to live] back then. Same deal.”

So, Edwards moved to Four Corners and has lived there ever since, commuting 45 minutes four days a week to his office in the Big Sky Meadow Village.

Since the pandemic rattled Big Sky, the housing problem has grown to a tipping point. In the first quarter of 2021, according to data from the Gallatin Association of Realtors, the average listing price for a single-family home in Big Sky was $2.4 million. The area median income for a family of four was $88,900.

The Big Sky Housing Trust became a nonprofit in 2020 and aims to address these issues head on. The efforts paid off on Nov. 15 when the Montana Board of Housing on Nov. 15 awarded $6.49 million to a workforce housing project in Big Sky known as the RiverView Apartments.

The housing trust currently reports that the average monthly rental price in Big Sky is $1,200 per bedroom. Affordability aside, the trust says the long-term rental vacancy rate is 0 percent in Big Sky, and 80 percent of the local workforce commutes from Gallatin Valley each day.

After the board of housing failed to allocate the project LIHTC funding in October, it approved $6.49 million to RiverView.

“It just allows this total project to move forward, which will add up to 400 beds for local workers,” said Laura Seyfang, executive director of the housing trust.

The RiverView project was announced in January 2021 as a collaborative project between the housing trust and local developer Lone Mountain Land Company. The housing trust will develop 25 of the project’s units, and LMLC will develop the remaining 75.

With the LIHTC award and $1.9 million in resort tax funding from the Big Sky Resort Area District, the housing trust still remains between $2 million and $3 million short of its budget, Seyfang said. To close the gap, the housing trust will take out a loan and seek support from the community.

RiverView is scheduled to open its doors to occupants in August of 2023, a timeline coinciding with the completion of the forthcoming water resource recovery facility expansion.

LMLC is also developing the first phase of Powder Light, a $17 million workforce housing project that will house 228 workers. Phase 1 of the modular building project is slated for completion in early summer 2022.

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