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Do You Want to Live/Work in Montana?

Man working with textileWho doesn’t want to live/work under the Big Sky? Live/Work Projects make headway in Montana. 

With more entrepreneurs per capita than any other state in the nation, there’s no short supply of hustle in Montana. It makes sense that live/work style units are successful in the state, namely in Bozeman and Billings. 

In Missoula, a rezoning request for the first live/work project was approved. But what are live/work units? And does Missoula really need to follow this trend?

Q: What are work/live units?

A: Live/work units, or LWUs, simply combine a residential and commercial space. Entrepreneurs live on-site with their production site and/or retail shop.

Q: What’s the point of this project?

A: There’s a major shortage of housing in Missoula. These live/work units will not only provide needed housing, but also reduce costs for business owners, have a lower carbon footprint, and reduce sprawl. 

“It’s a really interesting proposal for this property,” said planning board member Ellie Costello. “The idea of having concentrated services in a region that doesn’t have as many services could be a great thing to start creating some of the hubs proposed with some of the rezoning the county is working on.”

Q: Why don’t developers build low-income housing instead of live/work units?

A: Given the current cost of materials, low-income or affordable housing must be built with the help of subsidies. And, those subsidies aren’t guaranteed. While seeking other funding, material prices continue to rise. 

With quickly changing construction prices, LWU units are feasible, support small businesses, can be built in a timely manner, and are attractive to lenders. Projects like these bring needed home inventory to the city. Officials have noted that all new housing inventory helps to ease the current housing crisis.

Q: What do these look like?

A: Live/work units often have an industrial aesthetic. That generally includes building materials in their natural state. Elements like steel, wood, and concrete existing as part of the design. What’s more, units can include commercial elements such as roll doors to allow owners to operate their business from the workspace. 

Q: Will these developments create more traffic?

A: While there will be vehicle traffic associated with these housing units, LWUs in general are expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through fewer daily car trips. And, since it’s unlikely that every unit includes a retail component, car trips are similar to what would be expected with an apartment complex. 


Q: What kind of businesses can be run in these Montana Live/Work units? 

A: The intent for the current project closely follows the zoning recommendation for the area, to include retail trades and services, commercial uses of low intensity. 

Stay tuned for more information on live/work units in Montana. For more information on commercial development across the state, contact Claire Matten