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GFDA hosts housing summit in response to increased demand

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Posted at 5:28 PM, Apr 17, 2024

GREAT FALLS — Housing supply is a major issue for Great Falls and the surrounding area as the community continues to grow. But the supply has struggled to meet the demand.

In response to concerns from stakeholders in the area, the Great Falls Development Alliance commissioned a housing assessment to take a closer look at the state of housing and released the findings Wednesday morning at a summit at Great Falls College MSU attended by real estate professionals and community leaders.

The assessment, created by the Concord Group, concluded that Great Falls will need to increase housing supply by 650 units per year to meet projected demand. That figure is an increase from 450 units projected in a similar assessment released in 2021.

It breaks down to an average demand of 270 rental units per year and 370 homes for sale. Since the 2021 study, Great Falls has added 2,800 jobs and 600 households. Nearly all of the growth were high income households of $75k or higher.

“We've seen some pretty pretty notable improvements in the market over the past three years,” said Concord Group principal Adam Seidman. “There's been strong job growth in the market, actually even above what our projections had been three years ago. There has been positive population and household growth in the market and there's been delivery of housing that's been taken up pretty well.”

But even with several rental apartment projects either opened or under construction, current devlopment levels Great Falls will fall short of that supply projection by thousands of units over the next decade. That will continue to drive up home prices and rental rates.

“There's a disconnect between how what products we have in our market and who's able to afford them and then how many are available in our market,” said GFDA vice president Jake Clark. “The downstream effects are housing prices going up. It’s basic supply and demand. We need to increase our supply to to meet that demand so that pricing can be more representative of the product in the market.”

The GFDA plans to use the findings to attract developers willing to invest in the community and encouraged the real estate professionals and stakeholders in attendance to work together to avoid a housing crisis.

Recent planned projects such as the Bay View Housing Development and the River’s Edge Apartment Complex have received push back from neighborhood councils over concerns of increased traffic and construction.

But according to the GFDA that’s the reality of growth.

“We're not waiting to see if Great Falls is going to grow. It has grown already, and that is represented in the rise in housing prices. We swelled into our existing stock and we need more to take the pressure off the existing housing market,” Clark said. “By nature, adding more housing means it's going to go where it hasn't been before. And so that means we're going to have new neighbors where we haven't had them before. And that can be scary and challenging. But ultimately it's a healthy indicator for the community.”