Montana's well-known tourism locations have long been beset by a scarcity of reasonably priced lodging. For single-family homes in Big Sky, the median sales price increased to over $1 million in 2017, and for condos, it almost reached $400,000 in the same year. This issue was made worse by the pandemic. According to Montana Public Radio, the state's population increased by 1.6% between July 2020 and July 2021, significantly surpassing the growth rate of new homes. The median sales price of homes in Gallatin County more than double by 2022 due to rising demand for a finite amount of dwellings. As a result of the rising cost of real estate, more people are being forced into the rental market, which is already under pressure from the expansion of vacation rentals. Big Sky builds homes for its tenants using a variety of strategies since there is no magic bullet.
Big Sky Community Housing Trust's newest program, Good Deeds, is modeled after Vail's successful InDEED program. It offers current homeowners or buyers cash to put a deed limitation on their property's title, thus increasing the inventory of homes for the resident workforce instantly. Good Deeds forbids short-term rentals and requires at least one resident to work locally full-time, for 10–16% of the property's assessed value. The software is an enduring investment as these limitations are perpetually transferred along with ownership.
Housing projects take years to complete, even though many cities need to develop more affordable homes to meet the demands of an expanding population. Rather, at a fraction of the expense, Good Deeds reclaims an existing home in a matter of weeks. Good Deeds has maintained eight properties in its first year, paying an average of $84 per square foot. In contrast, the cost of construction nowadays might range from $500 to $800 per square foot.
Good Deeds enhances the availability of long-term renting and homeownership choices by allowing a tenant or homeowner to complete the job requirement. At the same time, it keeps limited residences from being flipped to the short-term rental market. Balancing short-term rentals is a problem for many Montana municipalities. Good Deeds have the potential to stabilize the rental market over time without entirely relying on regulatory changes.
Apart from giving communities a means to recover their rental stock, Good Deeds assists families that meet mortgage requirements but lack the funds for a down payment. Purchasing in a market with the highest interest rates in thirty years is intimidating when you have to put down a 20% down payment of $165,000 for a median-priced property in Gallatin County. Good Deeds funds are not loans and do not need to be repaid, thus buyers may be able to enter the market with as little as 4% down.
The straightforward idea of doing good deeds is not without danger. The program's participants will narrow the pool of potential buyers because prospective owners must likewise accept the limitations. Some of the homes in Vail's InDeed program, which has limited 174 residences since 2018, are reportedly reselling for as much as 20% less than the asking price. While sellers in the program may find this result challenging, there is an additional benefit to the community: it creates a submarket of properties preserved for the residential workers, enabling members to resale without appreciation caps.
While Montana's Good Deeds program is the first of its kind to restrict deeds, HB819, a law passed in the 2023 legislative session, provides $56 million to Community Reinvestment Organizations. While HB819 is still in its infancy, its fundamental ideas are similar to those of Big Sky's Good Deeds initiative.
The myriad issues behind Montana's housing problem cannot be resolved by good deeds, but it is also impossible to expect any one solution to do so. Colorado towns have demonstrated over the past five years that using deed limitations is an affordable way to start the process of securing houses for citizens who are having difficulty staying in their neighborhoods.
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