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New report address housing market demand in Great Falls

Terry Thompson
Sherrie Arey
Posted at 7:18 PM, Jan 21, 2022

GREAT FALLS — It probably goes without saying, but there is a need for housing in Great Falls. How much? That’s answered in a new housing market demand study released this week by the Great Falls Development Authority.

An assessment of the study has also been released.

At 155 pages, the Great Falls housing market demand study may seem complicated but the message is simple.

"The data shows we need housing at all levels,” said Jolene Schalper, GFDA senior vice president.

Specifically, the study found the Great Falls market can support more than 2,500 new, for-sale housing units and more than 1,800 rental units, far exceeding the current planned development according to the GFDA.

Schalper said the most exciting aspect of the study, however, is what it makes possible. "This is data that housing developers can take to the bank, literally, to prove our market. We need 450 units a year on average,” explained Schalper.

Great Falls Association of Realtors CEO Terry Thompson said the data is long overdue.

"Great Falls has been the most affordable market in Montana for a long time. So if we had the inventory we could've been capturing some of the movement that's been going on in the last year or two years through the COVID situation,” said Thompson.

So where could all of these new housing units be built? The map on page 71 in the study might give you some idea. It shows five-year annual population growth, with the areas in red seeing the most growth at above one percent.

The issue of housing in Great Falls was also brought up at a Great Falls City Commission meeting in December 2021, where several residents talked about the issue, including housing the homeless population.

For NeighborWorks Great Falls, the key is affordability.

"When we think of rental homes, we have just the apartment complex model in mind but maybe there's other models. Maybe there's single family home renters, maybe there's duplex renters. Then, as we build homes are there condominiums, are there other town homes? Are there other ways to build the homes that we need?” said Sherrie Arey, director of NeighborWorks Great Falls.

The GFDA anticipates development happening quickly due to pent up demand.