For four-year-old Charlotte, nothing says happiness like cruising around in her purple Jeep on a sunny day. PHOTO BY JANA BOUNDS

A happy family

Housing lottery winners on what it means to find stability in a ski town

It is tough to raise an outdoors oriented toddler from a second story apartment. For Marsha, Brian and their four-year-old daughter Charlotte, winning the Big Sky Community Housing Trust (BSCHT) housing lottery also meant a big win for their quality of life.

Brian said that before the move, heading outside so Charlotte could play was a big production. Nothing could be forgotten. Steep steps and too much distance from her meant that there was no drinking coffee from the comfort of their porch.

Now, Charlotte plays in the sprinklers, attacks her parents with water guns, rides her bike and scoots around in the purple Jeep that Santa got her this last Christmas. She also proudly gives guests a tour of their three bedroom, two bath home – and shows-off the large garage containing many of her toys with a wide grin.

“So here, it’s perfect. We’ve got a little yard and a little area. We’ve got kid neighbors, too. She has friends,” Brian said. It is not only a matter of comfort in the physical sense, but this also provides some breathing room psychologically.

“Our old apartment, our landlord would always talk about [making it a] vacation rental and having it be his home base. I think we were just always nervous about losing that, so this is a little more stability,” Marsha said. 

They grew out of their old space – and had no guest bedroom. When Marsha’s mother had knee replacement surgery and needed to stay with them, she was on the couch. Now, in the new place, she has her own bedroom and everyone has more room while she recovers.

The family has existed in that grey area – at an income threshold that, although currently would make them eligible to purchase a (BSCST) subsidized Meadowview Condo, if Brian were to find another job during daytime hours when Charlotte goes to school, he believes they would eliminate their ability to have one of those condominiums. They also cannot afford the nearly half million dollar and up prices tags on many local homes.

“Without this, we definitely wouldn’t have been able to live anywhere else in town like this,” Marsha said. “We are just grateful to be here when so many other working people in this town aren’t able to live here and stay here and have to commute from Ennis or Bozeman.”

Initially there were three homes up for grabs with the lottery. That dropped to two homes when one was sold. Twenty-five households applied, but of those only 12 met the established criteria, according to BSHT program director Laura Seyfang. Those qualifications include income limits, employment in Big Sky for at least a year and no more than two unrelated adults with at least three people in the household. Leases are renewable annually.

“Big Sky Community Housing Trust is very pleased to have found this creative way to help with the housing crisis for local families. We are so grateful for the partnership with the generous developer, Triple Creek Properties, LLC, who is renting these homes well below market prices,” Seyfang said. “We love seeing happy families in these great homes!”

The other family who won elected to not be interviewed for this story.

*To protect the privacy of the family, the Lone Peak Lookout has opted to use only first names in this story

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