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Housing program in Big Sky funds 84 rental units for local workforce

For Rent signs on lawn.
Joe Raedle
Getty Images
The Big Sky Community Housing Trust’s "Rent Local" program pays homeowners a cash incentive to rent to locals instead of on the short-term rental market.

A housing program in Big Sky is close to reaching its goal of adding 100 rental units for local workers by 2023.

The program has funding to add more units, but leadership of the nonprofit housing trust say it needs more vacation-home owners to get involved.

The Big Sky Community Housing Trust’s “Rent Local” program pays homeowners a cash incentive — based on the length of the lease and property size — to rent to locals instead of on the short term rental market.

David O'Connor, the executive director of the housing trust, says since the program launched in August 2021, “we now have 84 properties in the program with almost 200 locals, members of the workforce, housed.”

O’Connor says on any given day the housing trust has a waitlist of 200 to 300 people seeking housing.

The program, funded by philanthropy and the Big Sky resort tax, has funding for more leases into 2023. O’Conner says while the wider community has gained familiarity with the program, it takes time for property owners to assess whether the program is a fit and take their property off of the short-term rental market.

“If you applied today on our website it’s very likely we could have a tenant moved in by the end of the week,” he said.

O’Connor says the program has had an immediate impact of helping small businesses stay in operation and is anticipated to run for the next 3 to 5 years.

“The rent local program is designed to buy us time to get more projects and programs conceived of funding, constructed and operated,” he said.

In July the Big Sky Community housing trust launched the “Good Deeds” program, which pays owners and homebuyers who agree to house locals in perpetuity.

Olivia Weitz covers Bozeman and surrounding communities in Southwest Montana for Yellowstone Public Radio. She has reported for Northwest News Network and Boise State Public Radio and previously worked at a daily print newspaper. She is a graduate of the University of Puget Sound and the Transom Story Workshop.