Rural residents in Montana and neighboring states are in need of a broader array of housing options to address affordability concerns, rental shortages, the need for local senior housing, and a lack of entry-level opportunities for young people to build equity. Housing cooperatives may address these needs given their inherent creativity in housing design and development, reduced upfront costs and long-term financial benefits, sense of community, and the pride of home ownership (instead of renting).
In 2015 MCDC partnered with NeighborWorks Montana in a $60,000, two-phase research project to evaluate the prospects of designing rural housing cooperatives suited to the states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Phase One was a feasibility study that examined how the housing co-op model might fulfill housing needs in the region’s smallest or most challenging communities, especially when other forms of housing have not been suitable or achievable. The study was completed at the end of June and the full and summary reports may be accessed on the MCDC website.
Outcomes of the study included a recommendation that pilot communities be selected to demonstrate how a housing cooperative could be designed, financed, built and operated in their individual locales. Due to the number of communities that expressed interest, it was recommended that MCDC use an application process to assess project “readiness” and to identify multi-disciplinary teams willing to design and implement back-home action plans. The following lead applicants have been selected to attend a “Prepare to Launch” workshop for prospective housing cooperatives in September and to receive ongoing technical assistance from MCDC throughout the multi-year development process:
- Ravalli County Council on Aging for a senior cooperative development in Hamilton, Montana
- City of Driggs, Idaho, for an entry-level housing cooperative using cottage-style development
- HRDC District IX, Inc. dba Big Sky Community Housing Trust for a cooperative focused on entry-level workers in Big Sky, Montana
- Great Northern Development Corporation for senior and/or entry-level cooperative housing in Circle, Montana
- Beartooth RC&D Area, Inc. for one regional housing cooperative that builds affiliated units in Hardin, Columbus and Red Lodge, Montana
- Whitefish Chamber of Commerce for a housing cooperative targeted at entry-level workers in either downtown Whitefish, Montana, or by the ski resort
- Snowy Mountain Development Corporation for a historic renovation in Roundup involving both housing and commercial space