NewsMontana and Regional News


Using former 'man camps' to increase affordable housing options in Billings

Posted at 9:56 AM, Feb 24, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-24 12:03:03-05

BILLINGS — "Man camps" that once provided housing in Williston, North Dakota, during the Bakken oil boom may soon be part of the solution to the affordable housing crisis in Billings.

HomeFront - formerly the Housing Authority of Billings - aims to provide affordable housing for all and has the opportunity to purchase 200 empty man camp pods to create a new 100-unit housing complex.

"We are in dire need of housing and especially affordable housing,” said Brian Starr, HomeFront director of construction and procurement. "[Units will] have two pods connected with a living room, kitchen in the center of each one. So, two pods will create one two-bedroom, two-bath unit.”

Starr said HomeFront is still in the early phases of the plan and have not purchased the empty man camps but have an agreement to purchase them. He said the man camps were only lived in for about three months in Williston.

“Being able to take these man camp units that might be, you know, disposed of in some other way and being able to recycle them where we need it so badly, it’s just fantastic,” he said.

HomeFront Concept

HomeFront CEO Patti Webster said they plan on having the units filled by 2024.

“Our largest waiting list is a one-bedroom waiting list, it has over 2,000 people on it. Our second largest is the two-bedroom waiting list. So, that’s really where we want to concentrate our development, is where the greatest need is for the community,” said Webster.

With the addition of the 100 units, that will be located on Sioux Lane in the Billings Heights, Webster said this will complete an affordable housing subdivision that HomeFront has been working on since buying the land in the 1990s. She also said they will be working with an architect to make the "smallest footprint of a utility cost." She gave the example of $5 a month for utilities.

“We’re going to make it truly livable housing. Not just affordable, it will be livable,” Webster said.

According to Webster, they do not know when they will be accepting applications for the new units.