Bozeman’s sole multicultural enclave faces evictions amid a housing crisis
For some residents, the displacement signals the loss of affordable housing — and the only diverse neighborhood in the Montana city.
In late November, a professor noticed a slow exodus from her neighborhood near downtown Bozeman, Montana, on the edge of the campus of Montana State University, where she works. The chipped A-frames on the spruce-dotted streets in MSU’s family and graduate housing were home to custodians, researchers and tenure-track professors at the university, which owns the houses. Now, many of them were packing up and leaving. The university had decided to reallocate their homes to undergraduate students, and they had to be out by June 2021.
The professor and her neighbors faced a twofold loss. First, they would lose affordable housing, already a rarity in a city where the rental vacancy rate is close to 0% and the median price of a single-family house is about half a million dollars. The second — which the professor, who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation, found even more troubling — was the likely dissolution of what she describes as Bozeman’s only racially diverse neighborhood. This is borne out by the demographics of the local elementary school, which is 74% white, compared to the elementary school less than a mile to the east, which is 92% white. (Bozeman’s public elementary schools are, on average, 91% white; the population overall is 92% white.)
The professor was worried about the future of her child, one of the few children of color in this majority-white school district and city. She began to look for job postings outside the state and attending virtual interviews at other universities while still teaching her classes.
Bozeman — one of the nation’s whitest cities — is also one of Montana’s most racially diverse. This diversity stems, in part, from the international students, graduate researchers and faculty that Montana State has attracted to the town. Now, as their housing is re-apportioned, some of those residents and their families must decide whether the price of living in town is worth it.