News from the Knoff Group

Do we all have a stake in affordable housing? 

Monday’s Bozeman City Commission meeting will discuss an ordinance that will make it easier for developers and builders to build affordable housing units without them being ‘mandated’ to – through reduced impact fees thorough subsidy, smaller lot size requirements, reduced parkland requirements and accelerated permit processing. If this passes, it’s up to the builders and developers to make this a go…and hopefully the promised process by the City is as ‘easy’ as they make is sound. Red tape could get in the way. The demand for the affordable product is here – but not everyone’s idea of affordability is the same – many buyers don’t want condo or townhome living. Yards are in demand. We’ll see how this shakes down…

We all have stake in affordable housing – editorial Bozeman Daily Chronicle September 20, 2015

The Bozeman City Commission has reached a critical juncture in its latest attempt to boost the availability of affordable housing in the city. At its Monday meeting, the commission is slated to consider a plan to offer incentives to builders to include affordable homes in their housing projects in the city. And if the incentives fail to produce a minimum number of homes, the plan will mandate minimum numbers of affordable homes be built.

The builders lobbied hard to stay away from mandated quotas. They have succeeded — for now. Now they need to show that they can produce lower-priced homes without being forced to.

The gap between Bozeman home prices and median incomes is big and growing as the post-Great Recession housing market heats up. That has forced many who provide essential services in the city to stretch budgets to the breaking point or seek housing in neighboring communities.

Incentives for builders in the proposed ordinance include reduced lot size requirements, impact fee subsidies, reduced parkland requirements, accelerated permit processing for developments that include affordable housing and down payment assistance for qualifying homebuyers.

The proposal includes goals of 16 affordable units built by one year from now and a total of 54 by the end of 2017. That works out to between 1 and 4 percent of the total housing units built in recent years. Those are modest numbers and not unreasonable goals for the builders to meet.

Though it may be amended in a few minor ways, commissioners are likely to adopt the ordinance. And so they should. But going forward they are urged to remember that previous efforts to spur affordable housing construction have largely failed. If builders fail to meet the goals, commissioners are urged to be aggressive in imposing mandates for minimum numbers of affordable units to be included in every development.

Make no mistake: We all have a stake in the success of this effort — not just the builders and would-be affordable housing buyers. Sky-high housing costs threaten to turn the community into an enclave of high-wage earners and the independently wealthy.

And the ensuing lack of diversity will erode the quality of life we all prize so highly.