I read a great article in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle about how Whitehall, Montana has attacked their affordable housing situation and how Bozeman might be able to use some of these strategies locally. Whitehall is a small town about an hour away from Bozeman and a little outside of Butte. Whitehall has worked hard on creating a new affordable subdivision in town with homes that can be built for under $120,000.
These homes will be built in the new Mountain Horizon Subdivision in Whitehall. Habitat for Humanity is helping to develop the new subdivision. They along with builders and city officials have done an excellent job coordinating their efforts to keep home costs low.
According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the subdivision is using a home design that is 938 sq. ft with 2 bedrooms, but is under $120,000 to build. From the most recent quote by Bozeman based builders, its not possible to build a 1,200 square foot home in the city for less than 186K—and that number is before builder profit and real estate fees are added in.
Of course, comparing Whitehall to Bozeman is not necessarily an apples to apples conversation. Perhaps the biggest contributor to home affordability is the affordability of the lots below them. In Whitehall, it costs on average $25,000 for a finished, infrastructure equipped lot whereas Bozeman sees the average cost of a lot around $70,000. Bozeman has looked into trimming down on lot sizes to make their costs more effective.
However, there are some cool strategies being employed that might help lower costs in Bozeman, though certainly not to 120k per home. The first strategy used by developers in Whitehall required cooperation from Whitehall city officials. The subdivision was built outside of city limits because the land was far cheaper. However, once the land was purchased, it was incorporated into the city. That helped the developer’s buy cheap but still get access to the benefits of incorporation. For specific subdivisions on the outskirts of Bozeman, this could be a good solution to lower costs.
Second, the builders are using cheaper insulated materials to build their homes over traditional wood-framed construction. By using structurally insulated panels usually built from Styrofoam and placed between sheets of plywood, builders can lower their outgoing costs. Additionally, the insulation will help lower the future homebuyer’s utility costs, helping them save money after purchase.
Finally, the developer is also offering homebuyers the opportunity to work on their own home, with their labor removed from the costs.
All of these factors will help lower the overall costs of these homes. Bozeman can take a look at these strategies and decide whether to apply any of them moving forward. As Bozeman looks to address home affordability, creative ideas like these will help everyone involved keep home values at reasonable levels.
Source: Dietrich, Eric. “Whitehall Could Guide Bozeman Housing.” Bozeman Daily Chronicle. Sept. 3 2015.