By Bella Butler EBS STAFF
HELENA – The Montana Board of Housing on November 15 awarded $ 6.49 million for a workforce housing project in Big Sky known as RiverView Apartments.
In the grip of a housing crisis with far-reaching consequences, the management of the Big Sky Community Housing Trust, which will develop part of the RiverView project, says the low-income housing tax credit is a key step in promoting solutions sustainable.
The Housing Trust currently reports that the average monthly rental price in Big Sky is $ 1,200 per room. Affordability aside, the long-term vacancy rate is 0% in Big Sky, according to the Housing Trust.
After the Housing Council moved the RiverView project from a pool of 12 applicants to the first eight in May, RiverView failed to rank among the first four projects to receive LIHTC funding in October.
However, the state received a release from the IRS after the October allowance indicating that Montana would receive more tax credits to distribute than what the housing council had originally estimated. At its November meeting, the board elected to distribute $ 220,000 to a project previously awarded to Lewiston that required additional funding, and the remaining $ 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.
According to Nicole Keith, Multi-Family Program Manager for Montana Housing, a fifth project would have received reduced funding regardless of the IRS version, but news from the IRS allowed the board to fully meet the demand. from RiverView. Of the nearly $ 29.4 million allocated to six projects by the state, RiverView received the largest amount.
The RiverView project was announced in January as a collaborative project between the housing trust and local developer Lone Mountain Land Company. The Housing Trust will develop 25 of the project units and LMLC will develop the remaining 75.
All units will be rented exclusively to local workers, and rent will be capped, according to the housing trust’s website.
RiverView’s LIHTC app received 10 letters of support from community members and regional leaders.
Senator Pat Flowers and Representative Jane Gillette, who represent Big Sky in the Montana Legislature, also advocated for the project.
“I think people have this illusion that Big Sky doesn’t have some of the issues the rest of Montana has, but we do,” Gillette told EBS in an interview on Nov. 17. Gillette spoke at the housing board meeting on November 15 and said she shared her perspective on the limited availability of Big Sky land compared to neighboring towns like Bozeman and Belgrade which have sprawl potential.
Gillette also described the white crosses that line US Highway 191 through Gallatin Canyon, an indication of the danger 80 percent of Big Sky’s workforce faces when commuting to Gallatin Valley on a daily basis.
With the LIHTC award and $ 1.9 million in tourist tax funding, the housing trust is still between $ 2 million and $ 3 million under its budget, Seyfang said. To close the gap, the Housing Trust will take out a loan and seek community support.
Due to an agreement with the Big Sky County Water and Sewer Board, RiverView is expected to open to occupants in August 2023, a timeline coinciding with the completion of the upcoming expansion of the water resource reclamation facility. .