GREAT FALLS — Like much of Montana, housing is at a premium in Great Falls right now, making projects like the Ark Apartment Homes under construction along Division Road near Smelter Avenue all the more important.
But in order to get projects like this there needs to be data to identify exactly what the need is. That's where a new housing study will come in.
The Great Falls Development Authority, Great Falls Association of Realtors, and NeighborWorks Great Falls are teaming up to analyze the housing market.
"We'll be hiring a market analysis firm which works for developers and the banks and investors,” said GFDA CEO Brett Doney.
Doney said the housing study is a key part of economic development in the area: "The availability of quality, affordable housing is critical to our economic development efforts to retain talent and to attract talent."
Great Falls Association of Realtors CEO Terry Thompson offered to apply for a grant through the National Association of Realtors to help fund the study when she learned about the study.
"Through various coalitions, we're hoping to see something positive come out of the study and move forward to our communities. I think we're not taking advantage of our current situation in Montana with people bleeding out of the communities that are so expensive,” she explained. "We could be getting those folks or recruiting those people to come."
The study is just the first step though. "There has to be other things that come. the partnerships, multiple things,” Thompson said.
She said that includes getting a developer to come in and build subdivisions, but also taking steps to make sure local builders don't get left out.
"Housing right now is really hitting a critical point,” said Sherrie Arey, director of NeighborWorks Great Falls.
Arey hopes the study can help produce more starter homes to create more affordable housing.
Helping people achieve home ownership through affordable housing is a big part of NeighborWorks' mission: "As people outgrow a home, they move on and hopefully that home becomes a starter home, an affordable home, for somebody,” said Arey. "That cascading activity for every type of affordability point right now is really stretched thin."
Doney hopes to have a firm to conduct the study lined up within a month, and expects the study to take a couple of months to complete.