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Big Sky schools and Habitat for Humanity tackle affordable housing

Posted: 6:05 PM, Apr 02, 2019
Updated: 2019-04-02 19:54:55-04

BIG SKY, Mont. – The Big Sky School District is trying to do more about the lack of affordable housing — especially when it comes to its teachers.

The school district has teamed up with Habitat for Humanity of Gallatin Valley to build affordable housing on school district property.

Superintendent Dustin Shipman said even though the district is small, it’s growing rapidly.  Big Sky is one of the most expensive places to live, which results in faculty and staff having a difficult time finding housing.

“You know, it’s not just about the cost. I mean, the cost to rent something up here is really unbelievable. We have teachers who are renting one room in a condo for $1,000 a month. That’s a stressful situation for teachers, especially in Montana where it’s notoriously low paying,” Shipman said.

Habitat for Humanity and the Big Sky School district began discussing building triplexes for faculty and staff in the fall of last year in an attempt to provide more affordable housing.

“Housing is such a critical issue down there and so expensive and you have people living together — and it’s not bad to have a roommate, but when you’re paying a substantial amount of money each for that housing, it really takes away from your ability to do other things in the community,” said David Magistrelli, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Gallatin Valley.

The two triplexes will be on school district property.

Shipman said it’s not uncommon for rural schools in Montana to build housing for its faculty but that Big Sky is having to do it for a different reason.

“They have teacher housing to make their communities more desirable. We’re doing this to make our community more livable,” he said.

The school district and Habitat hope to begin construction next month.

“The board members are thrilled to be able to be kind of pioneers taking care of our own problem in the district,” Shipman said.

Magistrelli said, “I think it’s a great opportunity for the Big Sky community to pull their resources together to get behind the school and behind us in making this happen.”

The school district plans to go to the voters May 7 for their support through a levy.

If the vote passes, construction will begin next month and one of the triplexes should be complete by October with the other one being built next summer.