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Man camp makeover: Billings HomeFront one step closer to offering more affordable housing options

Man camp makeover: Billings HomeFront one step closer to offering more affordable housing options
Posted at 5:27 PM, Apr 07, 2024

BILLINGS — Hundreds of man camps that once provided housing in Williston, N.D., during the Bakken oil boom are now being delivered to an empty field on Sioux Lane in the Billings Heights, and HomeFront will be using them to create 100 two-bedroom, two-bathroom units.

“That’s who we are as HomeFront. We are innovators and trying to do sustainable housing to be permanently affordable in our community,” said HomeFront CEO Patti Webster.

Man camp makeover: Billings HomeFront one step closer to offering more affordable housing options

HomeFront has over 7,000 people on the waiting list for housing assistance, so Webster said recycling and reusing the man camp units is just one way to continue offering affordable housing in Billings. The agency first announced their plans to purchase the man camps in February 2023.

Man camp makeover: Billings HomeFront one step closer to offering more affordable housing options

Webster said false information has recently been spread about the units on social media and during a Billings radio show.

“That we’re creating a refugee camp. That we’re going to be housing illegals here. That we were going to be turning it into a homeless camp. None of those things are true,” Webster said. "People are spreading misinformation and not wanting to know the truth."

Man camp makeover: Billings HomeFront one step closer to offering more affordable housing options

Webster said another concern from the false information is that there could be more crime in the area.

But HomeFront is now dealing with people breaking into the construction area on their property.

“They broke in, started a truck on fire, and the Billings Police Department and the fire department said it was arson,” Webster said.

HomeFront owns and operates the surrounding apartment complexes on the street. Once the new units are finished, it will complete the complex area. HomeFront has owned the land since 1990.

Man camp makeover: Billings HomeFront one step closer to offering more affordable housing options

“The finished product is going to be gorgeous,” Webster said.

Pam Ellis is the secretary for the Heights Task Force and has known about the project for a while. She admits the man camps don't look pretty now, but will be transformed soon enough.

Man camp makeover: Billings HomeFront one step closer to offering more affordable housing options

“By the time that they’re designed, it’ll be a wonderful neighborhood,” Ellis said. “This really is an innovative, creative, well-done, well-designed project.”

Rent amounts have not been set yet, but HomeFront is accepting applications for the units, which they hope to have completed in 18 months.