Talbach House project aims to offer comparatively affordable condos

As Bozeman grapples with the consequences of its ever-growing population — among them scarce options for affordable housing — the city is caught in something of a conundrum.

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As Bozeman grapples with the consequences of its ever-growing population — among them scarce options for affordable housing — the city is caught in something of a conundrum.

Denser housing, like the half-dozen multi-story residential projects proposed or underway in the downtown area, offers living space without adding to sprawl at the city’s edges but often carries a luxury price tag.

At the same time, the prices of Bozeman’s traditional single-family homes have risen dramatically in recent years, limiting opportunities for first-time buyers looking for a chance to get their foot in the door of the real estate market.

But the Talbach House project, a three-story condo building under construction in southwest Bozeman near the Oracle campus, brings another option to the market, its backers say: providing buyers a comparatively affordable option.

The aim, said Josh Allen of developer Cadius Partners, is to cater to the growing number of younger people who are delaying getting married or starting a family, a trend that’s bringing down typical household sizes.

Designed by Bitnar Architects, the project will feature higher-end interior features as well as European-inspired design elements like large windows, Allen said.

Its one-bedroom units, at 625 square feet, will start at $172,000.

“There’s really not anything like this for sale that’s not downtown,” he said.

In comparison, developer Andy Holloran’s 5 West Project, under construction on Mendenhall Street a block off Main Street, will include similarly sized but significantly pricier condos — ranging from 640 to 1,800 square feet, he said last year, and priced between $285,000 and $800,000.

The median price for single-family homes sold in Bozeman last year was $337,000, according to the Gallatin Association of Realtors, a $40,000 increase over 2014.

A $172,000 mortgage translates into roughly $810 a month in housing payments. That would make one of the Talbach House units affordable for an individual or couple making just more than $29,000 a year.

The relatively modest price is made possible because the project’s in a still-developing part of Bozeman, Allen said, and because of the building’s density, fitting 66 units on a 2-acre lot.

Downtown projects, in comparison, tend to pay a premium for their real estate, pushing up prices. When building housing near the city’s vibrant cultural core, developers also appear to have plenty of interest from higher-end customers.

From an environmental standpoint, a key to green building is encouraging people to choose smaller, more efficient homes, Allen said, projects that allow energy savings when it comes to heating and, with denser walkable areas, transportation.

But that, he added, means offering up living options that can compete with traditional homes, such as, he hopes, Talbach House.

“You have to show people that there’s value in doing that,” he said.