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City approves affordable housing near Baxter Square Park

More moves are being made to deal with one of our biggest issues in the Bozeman area – affordable housing.

City approves affordable housing near Baxter Square Park
By Katheryn Houghton Chronicle Staff Writer Feb 28, 2018

A Bozeman field that developers have been trying to build on for more than a decade is set to become a neighborhood of townhomes for families making $30,000 to $40,000 a year. That type of home is in high demand and low stock throughout the city.

Bozeman’s latest affordable housing project includes 24 townhomes on less than 3 acres that partially wrap around Baxter Square Park. City commissioners approved the future neighborhood currently called Hoover Way on Monday.

HRDC is leading the project.

“It’s not necessarily the teachers, police and firemen that people talk about a lot. I think it’s one income tick below that,” said Tracy Menuez, HRDC’s community development director.

She said people who would qualify for the housing could have jobs like a school paraprofessional or an office manager. Each home will be required to remain affordable even if someone decides to sell.

That 100-percent affordability is pretty unique in Bozeman. Menuez said the effort isn’t cheap but is necessary as the city’s prices outpace wages.

The nonprofit is using about $1.2 million from its program funds for the project. Menuez also told commissioners to expect a request for help from the city’s affordable housing fund to keep the home prices down.

The land is about a quarter mile northwest of the intersection of Baxter Lane and North 27th Avenue. At the moment, it’s where wetland plants rise in the spring and it’s not an easy place to build.

Previous developers created a human-made pond before their project stalled in 2008 due to the recession. Over the years, Cattail Creek connected to the pond, extending wetlands and surprising HRDC after already making plans for the area.

So they tweaked their designs and asked the city for a series of exceptions.

HRDC dropped plans for a few single homes and asked commissioners to approve the neighborhood landing a bit closer to the pond than typically allowed for wetlands. They also asked to reduce lot sizes and have less space between homes and the streets.

In exchange, HRDC proposed to enhance the building signs for each unit, provide individual lot fencing and create dog stations.

The idea got the commission’s unanimous support. It falls in line with the current commission’s preference of fitting more homes on less space as the city tries to cater to a growing population.

Another unique thing about the property is it’s using parkland a previous developer set aside. City commissioners said whether that’s the best practice is something they’ll have to explore later.

The neighborhood is planned next to the Baxter Square subdivision. Several property owners in the area said they wanted the neighborhoods linked to share homeowner association fees tied to nearby roads and parks. Some also said they’re worried whether there would be enough parking in the new neighborhood.

Commissioners said the future neighbors will share the responsibility of local maintenance.

“I expect the residents of Hoover Way Subdivision will have the same pride in ownership as everyone else in the surrounding areas,” Commissioner Terry Cunningham said.

As for parking, Commissioner Jeff Krauss said at some point, Bozeman residents have to resolve themselves to a more “urban parking environment” where people compete for spaces.

“This development would look good in any neighborhood in the city,” Krauss said.

Those interested in the future neighborhood have to financially qualify for the housing and go through HRDC home buying guidance and education courses.

Source: City approves affordable housing near Baxter Square Park