It's Hard to Find a (Cheap) Home on the Range

At Yellowstone, a $40M gift looks to bring affordable housing to the park for staff
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 8, 2024 8:20 AM CST
$40M Gift Brings Affordable Housing to Yellowstone
Emigrant Peak towers over the Paradise Valley in Montana north of Yellowstone National Park, on Nov. 21, 2016.   (AP Photo/Matthew Brown, File)

When Caroline Gold was accepted for her dream job working at Yellowstone National Park in 2021, she immediately informed her employer in Texas she was leaving. Then she started looking for housing in rural Montana near her new place of work. That's when she wondered, "Am I going to have to un-resign from my job because there's no housing here?" she tells NPR. For years, it's been a struggle to find affordable housing in many places, but especially around this popular national park. It may now get easier, though. As NPR reports, anonymous donors have given $40 million to Yellowstone with the goal of building affordable housing for some of the 3,000 staff who keep the park running during the peak tourist season.

About half the staff reside in neighboring towns. "But affordable rentals have become scarcer as park visitation reaches record highs," NPR reports, noting "landlords have a lot of incentive to convert long-term rentals into nightly ones." "I can count at least five critical positions where we've tried to recruit, but we got turned down by the applicant because of a lack of housing," Park Superintendent Cam Sholly tells the outlet. "The housing market itself has just gone through the roof in these areas," Sholly adds, per the Spokesman-Review. Yellowstone's 2023 State of the Park report noted home values in gateway communities are double the national average, "equal to or more expensive than in Denver, Colorado."

"The quality and quantity of available housing is directly tied to the success of every division, district, operation, and program," the report adds, noting some employee housing was lost in a June 2022 flood. "While Yellowstone has made many housing improvements over the past decades, our efforts have not kept pace with the rate of deterioration of our housing assets." The donors' "tremendous generosity will help NPS address this critical need," says National Park Service Director Chuck Sams. The $40 million gift will cover the construction of roughly 70 new modular housing units inside Yellowstone, reports the Spokesman-Review. It notes this will be quite an upgrade as, until recently, some housing options in the park included old trailers dating to the 1960s. (More Yellowstone National Park stories.)

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