Big Sky, Montana: Community Housing
In Montana, the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce has spearheaded many of the discussions and initiatives around affordable housing, referred to locally as “community housing.” Like other resort areas, the Big Sky area has a high percentage of affluent second-home owners and a large percentage of in-commuters who cannot afford to live where they work, according to CEO Candace Carr Strauss.
In 2013, the chamber acted as a project manager for a citizens’ group that was studying and discussing the issue, making it eligible to receive funds from the local resort area tax district to fund an affordable work force housing study. The study, prepared by a consultant, made several recommendations, including that the area form a non-profit organization dedicated to the issue.
One of the next steps was submitting an application for a Community Development Block Grant. The chamber teamed with a local county to apply for a grant to fund a preliminary architectural report designed to address issues such as site options and preliminary architectural renderings. It was the chamber that provided the required matching funds; the application was successful.
In 2016, the Big Sky Community Housing Trust was formed to function as a land trust to provide affordable housing units via acquisition of property. The chamber contracted with a non-profit community action agency to provide a half-time employee to manage the trust. Town halls put on by the chamber followed, as well as a Big Sky Housing Action Plan prepared by a consultant. Now, after years of planning, education and laying the groundwork, Big Sky is well on its way to development of a community housing project. In 2018, the Community Housing Trust received $1.945 million in appropriations from the Big Sky Resort Area District and was able to sign an agreement with a developer to acquire land for a 52-unit affordable housing project.
Learn how chambers in university towns, resort communities and fast-growing locales are among those seeking solutions for affordable housing. Click here to read the cover story, "Workforce Housing," from the fall 2018 issue of Chamber Executive.