By MICHELLE BURGER/Montana State News

Montana State University students are unable to find affordable housing in Bozeman that allows for a healthy school, work, and life balance.

Rising MSU enrollment and other community population growth have reduced the rental vacancy rate to virtually zero.

Kas Hamilton, an MSU student, said that “Finding affordable housing is hard, especially for students. Some places are less likely to rent to you because they have bad tenants in the past who were students….”

Kevin O’Brien, of Peak Property Management and MSU’s Good Neighbor Committee, said, “outgoing freshmen are often surprised at the competitive nature of the Bozeman rental market.”

O’Brien also mentioned, “The biggest mistake they make is waiting too long to look for a property.  The key to success is to start looking early and often.”

The enrollment at MSU has been increasing steadily while as the housing has been in a constant decline in affordable housing available to students. Many are often pushed into living in on-campus housing as a more affordable option.

O’Brien noted safety is also in issue. “Rising rents also drive people toward properties that may not have certain amenities or in some cases, illegal bedrooms. Some people are willing to sacrifice safety for a more affordable living situation.”

Wages in the Bozeman market also factor into the housing affordability issue.

Hamilton, who lives on campus, said that, “Having to work enough to pay rent, utilities, and other bills and then having to balance school and work on top of that would have been a catastrophe.”

A census by Citi has found that “Nearly four out of five college students are working while attending school….” On average, a student will work a total of 19 hours a week outside of school.

The minimum wage in Montana is set at $8.15 an hour. If students are making minimum wage, this leaves them with a grand total of less than $620 a month without taxes taken.

According to the website, Rent Jungle, a single bedroom apartment goes for $824 a month. A two bedroom goes for $1,070 a month.

Often this rent price includes a room and a shared bathroom. This does not include utilities to add to the grand total.

If these numbers are accurate, it is impossible for a student working 19 hours a week to afford an apartment alone. Two students living together will be able to afford an apartment, but nothing else.

When asked what the future holds for rental prices in Bozeman, O’Brien said, “The outlying areas, such as Belgrade, Manhattan, Three Forks, Gallatin Gateway and Four Corners may see a decrease in rental pressure as more housing options become available in Bozeman, but the desire to live in Bozeman along with elevated prices for home purchases, will likely keep the rental pressure high.”

 – edited by Tim Stover

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