- Since 1970, the number of single-family homes in Montana has more than doubled, from roughly 150,000 homes to 322,000 in 2013.
- Despite the recent recession, more than 44,000 homes were built from 2003 to 2013 when home construction outpaced any previous ten year period in Montana’s history.
- All parts of Montana are not performing equally. The 18 western Montana counties account for 75 percent of homes built since 1990 (77,000 new homes). In contrast, the 38 eastern Montana counties saw far less growth during the same period (adding 25,500 homes).
- As the population grows, home construction in Montana is changing the state’s landscape, traffic patterns, farming and ranching uses, wildlife habitat, and wildfire risk.
Overall home construction in Montana is recovering from the last recession. The state is growing in population, which in turn stimulates demand for new housing. Since 1970, the number of single-family homes in Montana has more than doubled, from roughly 150,000 homes to 322,000 in 2013.
In fact, Montana saw more homes built during the past decade (2003 to 2013) than in any previous ten-year period. Even with the recent recession, 44,099 new single-family homes were built from 2003-2013. By comparison, the next fastest growth period was the 1970s, when 42,689 homes were built.
As Montana’s population grows, housing development is changing the state’s landscape, traffic patterns, farming and ranching uses, wildlife habitat, and wildfire risk. These challenges are felt very differently across the state as the economy and housing market recover from the last recession.
The most evident difference in housing trends across the state is between western and eastern Montana. Montana’s 18 western counties experienced record growth during the 1990s and 2000s, adding 77,000 new homes.
In contrast, the 38 eastern counties experienced slower growth, adding 25,500 homes, after construction peaked in the late 1970s. These regional differences are apparent in nearly all Montana counties, regardless of population size.
Ravalli County is a good example of building trends in western Montana. The county has more than 15,000 homes and has experienced relatively sustained and rapid growth since the 1970s—averaging more than 250 new homes built annually during the past 30 years.
Daniels and Rosebud counties are examples of isolated counties in eastern Montana. In these counties the rate of home constructions in the past 30 years has been relatively flat, averaging fewer than 10 homes per year.
Also in eastern Montana, a small number of counties, including Dawson and Richland, saw a brief uptick in home construction in the early 2010s associated with oil and gas development. Since then, falling oil and gas prices have translated to slower home construction rates.
These trends illustrate the different challenges Montana’s regions and counties face in making planning and growth management choices. While western Montana struggles with rapid development, eastern Montana struggles with a lack of growth, and in some cases erratic growth.
Data source: Headwaters Economics collected the location and year-built for every single-family home from the Montana Department of Revenue. These data are tax assessor records that describe home locations in “Quarter Sections,” which are 160-acre blocks of land delineated by the Public Land Survey Section System.
The following counties are referred to as western Montana counties: Beaverhead, Broadwater, Deer Lodge, Flathead, Gallatin, Granite, Jefferson, Lake, Lewis and Clark, Lincoln, Madison, Mineral, Missoula, Park, Powell, Ravalli, Sanders, and Silver Bow. All other counties are referred to as eastern Montana counties.