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Bozeman affordable housing ballot measure see support from commissioners

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Posted at 5:51 PM, Mar 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-29 10:49:25-04

BOZEMAN — The Bozeman City Commission says they’re preparing to lose what they call one of their affordable housing tools as the Montana Legislature looks to ban inclusionary zoning.

And with one funding door closing, commissioners may ask later this year if residents would consider helping chip in to fund some of those affordable housing projects.

“It’s such an issue right now that we have to take advantage of all possible ways to see if our electorate supports affordable housing,” said City Manager Jeff Mihelich at the Bozeman City Commission meeting last Tuesday.

The Bozeman City Commission held a work session where city staff fleshed out different options for a ballot measure that would increase property taxes to help fund affordable housing projects in Bozeman.

After reviewing options, commissioners agreed on staff’s recommendations to propose up to a 7 mill levy that would raise just under $10 million dollars in 10 years.

“The seven mill levy with the affordable housing program, we think that’s a really good sweet spot. That has an impact on the average homeowner of $33.00 a year,” said Mihelich.

Deputy Mayor Terry Cunningham says at this point there are two ways funds go into the city’s Community Housing Program.

“We have been allocating either 3 or 5 mills to the Community Housing Fund. And so from the General Fund, we’ve been allocating some funds to that,” said Cunningham.

“And also, the secondary fund is the inclusionary zoning, that a developer can opt to pay cash in lieu as opposed to actually develop affordable housing.”

Cunningham says finding more funding options for affordable housing projects is more important now than ever, as the Montana Legislature moves towards banning inclusionary zoning.

“All signs indicate that will be taken from us as a tool. And with that not only goes our ability to have below-market rate housing, but we also we lose the cash in lieu option as well,” Cunningham added.

City staff will work on the affordable housing mill levy ballot language this summer, which is expected to be on the ballot November 2021.