Riverview affordable housing project hits major setback
MT Board of housing denies BSCHT’s $6.7 million request for funding
Despite public letters urging support for the proposed RiverView Apartment complex, the Montana Board of Housing did not award the Big Sky Community Housing Trust’s (BSCHT) request for $6.7 million dollars in federal funding to support the project on Monday, Oct. 18. It is unclear at this time how this will impact the progress of the 100 unit development kickstarted by BSCHT and the Lone Mountain Land Company (LMLC). The RiverView Apartment complex is proposed to go in across the street from Ace Hardware. The nearly $7 million dollars needed to complete the project will most likely have to come from somewhere else.
The RiverView process for BSCHT started earlier this summer when the Montana Board of Housing notified a handful of recipients that it had received $28.8 million dollars in federal funding for affordable housing. The BSCHT was one of eight organizations across the state encouraged to apply. Only a handful of the applicants would be awarded funding. The Board of Housing’s decision, which was released earlier this week on Monday, Oct. 18, did not include Big Sky.
The decision isn’t stellar news for BSCHT. However, executive director Laura Seyfang is not unfamiliar with patching together a variety of creative solutions to solve complicated housing dilemmas in this small mountain town.
For some context as to why this issue matters: almost 80% of the local workforce commutes for 40- plus miles and there are currently zero rental vacancies in Big Sky. In other words, there is nowhere to live and thus no folks to work.
And this winter is not looking good. “I think it’s going to be dire,” predicted Seyfang. “It’s not just here. It’s everywhere struggling to find workers. Things are out of whack in our country across the board. It’s tough to change that whole system that is out of sync right now.”
As opposed to contractors or seasonal employees, the BSCHT focuses on finding housing solutions for long-term residents and workers. The organization successfully completed a project earlier this year called the MeadowView Condominiums. Over fifty affordable homes were built and sold to locals through collaboration with a variety of community organizations who subsidized costs. Because of the nature of the project, none of the homes can be rented short term and they cannot be sold back into the market. The last family moved-in in late July.
Although this is a major hiccup in the affordable housing goals for the Big Sky community, BSCHT never stops trying to find novel ways to unite people with homes. They are currently swapping ideas with a tiny home builder, exploring deed restriction programs and slowly expanding their list of homeowners within their “Rent Local” program.
This program, which offers a cash incentive to residents for renting, is working. Homeowners receive $1500 if they rent their home out for six months; $6750 if they rent their home out for 12 months; and $14500 if they rent their home out for 24 months. The goal is to motivate condominium owners to rent long-term to locals instead of vacationers. Since Aug. 1, 2021, BSCHT has added 18 new units to the long-term rental market.