Bozeman Commissioners Pass Affordable Housing Plan

Nov 20, 2019

Bozeman’s city commissioners approved a plan late Monday night that lays out strategies to tackle housing issues across a spectrum of income levels.

By 11 P.M., the crowd of nearly 50 people in Bozeman City Hall had dwindled to 15. The remaining hold-outs were waiting to see whether the commissioners would approve the draft Community Housing Action Plan.

Bozeman needs around 6,000 more housing units by 2025, and sixty percent of them need to be below market rate. That’s according to a community needs assessment the city released earlier this year.

The new action plan, which cost $45,000 and was partially grant-funded, aims to address that and other housing needs in Bozeman with 17 strategies, some of which are already being implemented. They range from modifying zoning codes to partnering with developers to build homes on publicly-owned land.

For people like Kevin Thane, the commissioners’ decision was a step in the right direction. Thane sits on the city’s affordable housing advisory board and is part of the 22-person working group that spent hundreds of hours with consultants to develop the draft plan.

“The Community Affordable Housing Action Plan being considered for adoption is a good plan if executed in a timely fashion," Thane says. "The bane of plans such as this one is time, the shelf-time before it is enacted upon if indeed it is acted upon at all.”

Jeff Krauss, the only city commissioner who voted against the plan, said some of the strategies needed more testing and he expressed concern about funding.

The city last week also fired its affordable housing manager, Loren Olsen, according to a Bozeman Daily Chronicle report. The city manager declined to say why, citing employee privacy rights.

Commissioner Terry Cunningham asked Christine Walker, one of the consultants involved in the draft plan, how she viewed the city’s current ability to implement the strategies in the next five years.

“Well your capacity just got less, and this timeline is based upon previous capacity at the city," Walker said.

The city is updating codes about accessory dwelling units as one tool to prevent urban sprawl and is creating a community land trust with partners. Commissioners will discuss the housing plan again in January.