Affordable Housing Thinking Far Outside The Box

by Jerry Schuster  |  Monday Aug. 1st, 2016

Other than the high profile high school issue, the most persistent topic here is lack of affordable housing. I will propose a reasonable and workable solution which will actually resolve both of these matters quite nicely.

First, to define the issue. All the locals know this already, in a nutshell, housing prices are too high vis-à-vis local wages. So, while many young, talented, educated people want to work here, they are forced to live in Belgrade, Manhattan, or Three Forks. You can add numerous collateral factors, but that is really the essence.

Stop! This is simply not working. You are starting to yawn and think of ways to waste time such as watching TV reality shows or 24 hour breaking news channels. Forget it, I am going back to satire. For those who don’t know what satire is, go look it up in the dictionary or Google it. You might actually learn something today, which is not your usual course. While there, look up sarcasm and irony. Good job.

For our California friends who enjoy the amenities of Bozeman in their third home, you do not need to waste your time reading the rest of this article. Spend the time checking on your other houses in Big Sky and Chicago. Besides, I don’t want you finding out how you fit into my comprehensive affordable housing plan at this time.

Yea, so Bozeman needs affordable housing. Let’s say you have a typical family with two PhDs, both working in the community. They have an apartment for themselves, their 1.34 kids and 6 dogs which rents for a mere $3,654.00 per month. After paying for life’s necessities like sushi rolls, monthly payments on three cars, mountain bikes, paddle boards and charitable donations, their net money remaining for savings is $1.55.

 

Even you can understand that it will take quite some time for this family to accumulate the average 20% down payment needed for a house loan. Even for a modest house here, the down payment required is about $216,378.00. After that is saved, they will need a cool $4,676.00 for monthly principal and interest; add on taxes, insurance, HOA fees and Bozeman Specials such as trees, bike paths, dog paths, boulevard native grass and improvement to storm water drains. Total monthly outlay is $7,345.00.

Okay, you know the problem, what about some solutions. Here is my strategic plan:
First, you need a good central location for a big, affordable housing project. I read that Peet’s Hill was under consideration, but we all know that this plan will never fly in Bozeman. By the time the environmental impact, cultural artifact, esthetic eyesore and impact on dog walking route lawsuits are settled, we will be into the next century. Forget this idea, it was hatched as a nihility.

Here’s where the proposed new High School issue comes into play in my grand scheme. We should tear down the present High School and use this land to build affordable housing units! The slogan for the location would be “School Trustees, Mayor and City Council, tear down these halls.” Okay, you come up with something more original then.

The advantages of this location are numerous. The land could be donated to the project, the area is close to downtown shopping, work locations, restaurants, churches, synagogues, temples, pubs and distilleries. Residents could walk or bike to work, so the air would be cleaner, and streets less congested.

At this site, we can build some modest, Bozeman eco-friendly, non-GMO, affordable housing units. Now, to be affordable, the houses will have one and one-half nice bedrooms, one bathroom with “real emergency” side entrance, kitchen with microwave for oven and Coleman camping- style cook stove. There will be no room for a refrigerator, but the table benches would be coolers which can hold a good supply of ice. Just think of the ice trickle-down businesses which will flourish.

There will be no need for garages, because the one vehicle allowed per unit is used strictly for vacations and the like. All vehicles would be parked off-campus in Belgrade. There will of course be a weekly shuttle for those who need it, but the rest can ride out to Belgrade on their bikes, as by then we will have a beautiful paved bike path between Bozeman and Belgrade. Sorry, I forgot to add that one to the Bozeman Specials noted above. Also, there would be no need for lawns, as they take up too much valuable space and use too much water and pesticides.

In this development, the present swim center would be retained, as well as the football field for soccer. No need for additional green space; another plus. This plan is just loaded with positives.

Nice, cozy and affordable. With a down payment of $10.00, the average monthly payment would be about $215.00 on a fixed interest 150 year loan. The cost per unit? About $86,000.00. Don’t worry about the term of the loan, as we will be living that long or longer with all the medical advances and procedures.

I anticipated your question. What will we do about the High School issue? Glad you asked. Since the Oak Street and Flanders Mill Road site is available, just make the new school much bigger than the present school. Supersize it, to accommodate the estimated 15,000 student population in 2020. Oh don’t be getting so acrimonious. I know that the “Committee on the Issue of the Future of Bozeman High School” has finally decided on a two school plan. Since this Committee has been at work for the past 35 years, I want them in on my revolutionary one behemoth school plan only very slowly. If you know someone on the Committee, please do not mention this article to them. Since this is a topic in itself, I will save the details for another day.

But, how to pay for this gigantic new High School? This is where the folks moving here from California fit in. The average tax bill will go up 314%, but the cost can be spread out over 180 years, which is when the building will need replacement anyway. You might say win/win. Stay tuned. More details later.

Don’t get nervous. The folks at the affordable units can get a tax waiver for the first 10 years. I am so appreciative of all the topics and issues which this community has to ponder. Makes life here so much more enjoyable.

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