The community housing conversation is called to order
Big Sky starts to activate new action plan
First, there’s the remarkable cross section of Big Sky locals who stepped up and bought into the notion that, “It takes a community to build a community.” There are 21 names listed in the acknowledgements section of the recently released “Big Sky Community Housing Action Plan” and those folks are stand ins for the more than 1,000 people who poured their thoughts and aspirations into a housing needs survey conducted earlier this year.
“This fully represents a diverse group of folks from the community,” said Christina Calabrese, who was part of the community housing working group, and helped kick off the action plan’s unveiling at the resort tax office in Town Center on June 13.
Second, there’s the mountain of a challenge towering over Big Sky—how does it find a way to build “250 to 300 community housing units within five years”? And that’s just one goal spelled out in the action plan.
Finally, there are the tools, outlined in inspiring detail by mountain town savvy consultants Wendy Sullivan and Christine Walker, who’ve been here before. They’ve filled filing cabinets with successful plans for other alpine destinations such as Aspen, Breckenridge, Mammoth Lakes and Whitefish.
Brian Guyer, with HRDC and the Big Sky Community Housing Trust, said Sullivan and Walker, “Were really tasked with coming up with a homegrown solution for Big Sky.”
Like good friends pushing a pal to ski something they wouldn’t otherwise consider—but will ultimately love—these two unfolded a new trail map at the June 13 presentation and it detailed Big Sky’s housing future. Running through their PowerPoint, Sullivan and Walker essentially tapped their fingers on a map pointing the way toward Big Sky becoming a place where it’s possible for more working families and individuals to live here.
“Housing is at the top of people’s minds. And what really came out of the survey is they want to be heard,” said Sullivan. “How can we tailor it to work in Big Sky?”
The consultants started by sizing up who lives in Big Sky. They found local middle income households bring in around $60,500 per year, or $30 per hour.
They also discovered that while these wages might see modest growth, there continues to be significant bumps in local rents, even compared to other expensive ski towns.
“So it’s a little bit less affordable for rents in Big Sky than other resort communities,” said Walker, who explained how affordable “community housing” is defined by 30 percent of income put toward rent or a mortgage.
Next, Sullivan delved into how Big Sky arrived at its community housing problems.
“Between 2012 and 2017, you guys had phenomenal job growth. 42 percent job growth,” said Sullivan, citing the arrival of the Medical Clinic of Big Sky, Roxy’s Market and all the second home development. “During that same period, you built almost 600 units. But over 70 percent of those were priced over $1 million. So your locals aren’t buying these.”
Sullivan also pointed out how 400 local renters were forced to move away from Big Sky in the last five years. She went on to wonder aloud, asking how Big Sky can continue to grow, “While still ensuring we have a community and people here to keep it running?”
This is the first in a series of articles looking at how Big Sky chooses to activate the recently released community housing action plan.