All you can say to someone in search of housing before ski season
Looking at the Big Sky housing market, the fundamentals are fairly easy to understand. Supply is low, demand is high. And with the ski season on the horizon, property management companies are again seeing an influx of people unsuccessfully in search of housing.
Additionally, the cost of renting even a single room keeps skyrocketing—forcing seasonal employees to commute from other communities.
“The two-hour line of traffic every morning suggests that this is the case,” said Dan Lukas of Go Big Rentals, noting every Go Big property with a year-long lease is rented.
The internet seems to be the main source people use to look for housing in this area. Craigslist, Facebook, email and word of mouth are all mediums commenters on the Big Sky Housing Network Facebook page say they use to locate places to live. This page, created by Regan Christian-Frederick, has been a beneficial resource to house hunters, connecting those with space or leads on a place to rent with those looking. Posts include advertisements for rooms to rent, roommates wanted and requests for advice on how to find a place to live in the Big Sky area.
The Big Sky Housing Network Facebook community also inspires discourse concerning the housing shortage in town. In one notable exchange, a contributor posted a room in a Firelight condo going for $1500 a month, which did not go over well with many.
“I would say the demand for housing and the intensity of community discourse both increase with each season,” said Christian-Frederick
Big Sky Housing Network users commonly point out the issue of Airbnb eating into the supply local long-term housing rentals.
A comment string on Facebook mentioned a situation where an eight-unit development has only three full-time rentals. The rest reportedly are used as Airbnbs.
“Supply of units is affected by things like new construction, current units, second-home owners, VRBO and Airbnb, which are huge. An owner can make a lot more money on short-term rentals than on long-term leases, and it’s less risky. There are a lot of local homeowners who will Airbnb their condos, and then rent a bedroom from someone else, which effectively takes two units off the market—which drives down the supply,” explained Christian-Frederick.
When asked what would be a good solution to this problem, the answers from the Facebook page users are similar. More affordable and employee housing along with using less space for Airbnb rentals were common sentiments. The Meadowview II development behind the tennis courts is a good step in this direction, but Christian-Frederick points out a distinction between “affordable housing and attainable workforce housing” must be made.
“Prices for attainable workforce housing should be dictated by the wages of the local workforce, which are far lower than the current housing market averages,” said Christian-Frederick, who also points out how interesting the 2020 census will be in looking at Big Sky’s growth and demographics over the past 10 years.
As one of the big local employers, Big Sky Resort has grappled with providing workforce housing for years and sees it as an issue extending beyond the ski area.
“Seasonal employee housing, and affordable housing is a community issue—not just a Big Sky Resort issue,” said Stacie Mesuda, the resort’s public relations manager. “The Resort is certainly part of the solution, but we aren’t the only solution. Building our own seasonal employee housing is the most immediate remedy to a community-wide affordable housing problem. If more employers in the community could adopt this model, there would be many more options for seasonal employees, leaving more sustainable options for long-term residents.”
Mesuda continued, “More than 50 percent of Big Sky Resort's full-time seasonal employees benefit from employee housing. When the next phase of our seasonal housing campuses are open to employees, 65 percent of our full-time, seasonal workforce will be housed in units we offer."
Mesuda went on to add, “Every bed of seasonal housing that is created frees up another bed in the community for others, including families. Bringing more beds to those that serve our guests is a win-win for our employees and our community.”