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Committee looking at options to address housing in Broadwater County

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Posted at 5:46 PM, Jan 15, 2024

TOWNSEND — It’s no surprise to Montanans that housing is tight. Buying and even renting feel out of reach for many hard-working people. MTN spoke with a couple of members of a housing committee trying to alleviate this issue in Broadwater County.

“People need somewhere to begin. That's one of the difficulties that we've been facing in our country. We kind of got a point to where housing is so expensive that only people halfway through their careers can afford them,” says Committee Member with the affordable housing committee, JB Howick.

The Broadwater County Development Corporation took a look at and created committees for the top pressing issues facing the community, which include housing, child care, aging gracefully, multi-use community center, trails, and broadband.

According to the US Census Bureau, the median income for a household in Broadwater County went from about $47,000 to roughly $62,000 in a ten-year period from 2012 to 2022. And according to the most recent data from the National Association of Realtors, the monthly mortgage payment has risen by $360 over the past year. for a median-priced home in the county with a value of about $350,000.

The affordable housing committee is looking at three solutions to remedy the struggle of buying and renting in 6 areas of Broadwater County including The Silos, Townsend, and the Wheatland area, as well as Radersburg, Winston, and Toston. These 3 solutions are tiny homes, rentals, and working alongside Trust Montana to provide affordable living situations.

“The odds are pretty good that the first project will be in or around Townsend since that's where the majority of the business is and where the employment is,” says Howick.

While these conversations are in preliminary stages, BCDC could potentially work alongside Trust Montana in order to create long-term affordable homes. Trust Montana works alongside non-profits that buy homes. The actual home is sold to someone who is making 120% or less of the average median income while the land portion of the property is given to Trust Montana. That land is then leased to the homeowner and kept at a purposefully low price in order to keep the property affordable in perpetuity says Executive Director of Trust Montana, Dawn Conklin.

“We're struggling. We just don't have workforce housing for those who are such important members of our community, our fire department, our EMT's, you know, our nurses, as I said. Yeah, so, it's a real crisis,” says Conklin.

Howick says that Broadwater County needs affordable housing in order to support all folks who call the county home and provide them with the opportunity to buy a home at the beginning of their careers.

“If we take that away, if we take the first step away, it becomes harder for the area to be anything other than a place for wealthy people to live,” says Howick.