Jim Applebee

Jim Applebee

"Streamlining the process in any way would be a significant factor in saving time and money, and the most important thing – bringing more affordable homes to the market quicker."

“I’ve been a licensed real estate broker for over 20 years now. Most of the homes I sell are in Bozeman, Big Sky, Three Forks, Livingston and other surrounding areas. I also build homes as well, primarily multifamily units, which I then rent out or sell.”

“Building homes can be complex and there are numerous things that impact housing. One factor that really impacts the number of homes that can be built is lot coverage ratios. For example, let’s say that there was a project that was nearly an acre that was zoned R4 within Bozeman city limits. There is a calculation that the city uses to determine how much of the property can be covered, which obviously directly impacts the number of units we can build.”

“In some cases you may have to essentially dedicate a piece of the property to the city as a road easement. The problem that can arise is that coverage ratios are often calculated after you dedicate that easement. This means that a lot which could fit 24 units would only have 20 units built because the easement was removed from the coverage ratio equation. This effectively means that homes that could be built, won’t be built.”

“A builder often has to redesign a plan due to parking requirements as well. The parking restrictions are a bit of a double-edged sword; towns need parking but if the requirements are too high then it can also be a major barrier to development. Often, the most desirable land is that which has zoning with lower parking restrictions because you can build more homes. The cost of the land isn’t changing, so the ability to build more homes on a lot can help considerably with property costs.”

“To their credit, Bozeman does provide parking credits if you are within a certain distance of public transportation, which can help quite a bit. At the end of the day though, parking requirements can sometimes be a pretty big barrier to the number of homes built. Some builders have even been working on plans that are a one-bedroom and office with no door between the rooms so that they don’t have to worry about adding more parking.”

“Oftentimes cities will adopt some design requirements, which go above and beyond building codes and zoning codes. For example, there are ratios as to how much of the garage door can take up the front of your house or setback requirements for the entry of the garage. In a normal market there should be affordable neighborhoods and there should be expensive neighborhoods, but some of these requirements raise the cost of all homes and make it hard to build affordable housing.”

“Aside from my own building, I have worked with other builders and what the general consensus is the more and more regulations you have, the more confusing it is for everybody from the builder, to the developer, to even the city.”

“It can take a year to design a few units and when regulations get overly complicated then it’s not uncommon to redesign units multiple times. All the while you are still having to pay interest on property that is just sitting there, that’s where some of your cost increases arise from. It’s not uncommon to see a cost increase of $30,000 due to having to redesign a project and the three month delay caused by that redesign. Regardless of the type of development, there will always be a significant amount of financing so any time there is a delay, it costs real money.”

“Part of the building process is booking subcontractors and if you don’t stick by a schedule, you’ll lose a subcontractor and then if you try to get one on shorter notice you’re going to have to pay 20% more because they’re going to have to pull off a job to go do your work. Any delays can have a significant impact on costs. Clarifying zoning and the submission process is the key to bringing more affordable homes to the market.”

“When you have a changing, complex, and restrictive zoning code, it creates a moving target and it’s harder for everybody including the planners, developers, builders, architects and the engineers. Streamlining the process in any way would be a significant factor in saving time and money, and the most important thing – bringing more affordable homes to the market quicker.”

Jim Applebee
Bozeman Realtor
Bozeman, Montana

Want more? Get stories like this delivered straight to your inbox.

Thank you, we'll keep you informed!