VALIER OCCUPANT SOURCES:
What are the sources of our incomes?
Retired persons from the local ranching community
Young families from the local ranching community
Teachers (There are no doctors, lawyers or active clergy.)
Border related (Homeland security, Port, Customs, ATF)
Airport related (Drones? Oil industry related helicopters)
Oil drilling boom
Transient building crews (Wind farms, pipelines, electrical transmission)
(stores, gas stations, cafes, library, civic center, clinic, beauty parlors, massage, tanning, sports grounds, ag supplies, hardware, gift stores, motor rewinding, engine rebuilding)
Tourist services (campground, art gallery)
Infrastructure (gas, electric, telephone, Internet, plumbers, small construction)
Irrigation (Canal co.)
CONTEXTS in terms of occupants
Border-associated personnel who have been on the Mexican border are not accustomed to the difference in prices and the age of local housing stock. They come north because it is safer and because they have families they want to raise in stable communities. Because their salaries are federal, they make a LOT of money compared to locals.
Valier is a good town for local law enforcement people, like the county sheriff staff or the highway patrol who are more likely to be Montana people. It’s quiet with only one bar in town (fairly mellow), small population, and a general norm of abiding by the law. If you watch the sheriff’s report, much of the work is responding to emergencies like accidents.
Teachers tend to fall into two categories: those who are holding second jobs, perhaps living on surrounding ranches, and those who are young, single and exploring the world. The latter might enjoy small rentals, even apartments, while those off ranches need no housing. Administrators tend to be young men with families who need multi-bedroom modern houses.
Trailers are key to shelter for many low income people, but they carry a stigma because of it. The key is maintenance. Technology for trailers is much improved. The newest models are much better built.
Modular housing is halfway between individually built homes and trailers. These houses are popular because they are fast and you can see what you’re getting, up to a point. As I drive around town, I notice some have buckled siding and wonder about the systems inside. Some came in as a special Canadian promotion a few years back.
The strategy of some young families is to buy a relatively small older house and build onto it over the years as incomes rise and the kids arrive.
As the original dryland homesteaders aged and passed their homesteads on to the next generation, they moved to town and smaller places closer to church and store, while the younger folks whose children were on school bus routes, took over the outlying farm houses. When CRP came in, people tended to move to town, maybe even spend part of the year in the warm south, which meant that their homes were no longer needed out there on dry land where water had to be trucked in to a cistern. Also in past years the smaller places have been consolidated by big corporate interests that farmed with huge machines that could cultivate a lot of land without many people. That meant the houses stood empty until someone moved them to town.
Psychologically, people here do not tend to like group housing. Unlike retirement communities in denser populations, they tend to be no frills and associated with stigmas like low income or old age or some kind of disability. But they could be quite attractive, like the converted military housing in Conrad.
I’m a suspicious old bag and, partly because of working for Portland’s Bureau of Buildings, I often see dollar signs in the eyes of those who claim to be serving the greater good. It’s also VERY hard to get people to look past their own lives to identify assumptions that may be misleading them. I spent a lot of time explaining the flood plain zone maps, explaining why a person can’t build on them or why restrictions had to be observed. Immigrants from the former USSR were the hardest to convince: they thought if they just begged hard enough or slipped the right person some money, they would be able to break the law. The flood plain that wiped out the housing for the Portland Kaiser shipyards in the notorious Vanport flood now stands empty except for ball fields and picnic grounds. Citizens wanted to build a prison there. When told that if it flooded, the prisoners would drown, they said, “Who cares? They’re only crooks.” The head of our site development team remarked mildly, “My brother works there as a guard.” Oh.
Valier has a high water-table which regularly fills some basements and crawl spaces. I don’t know whether there is a map of that. Valier has high ground that cannot drain a sewer without a lift-station, which is expensive. Valier has several places contaminated by old service stations that require special handling for excavation. This is denied sometimes, but was discovered again when we upgraded the main sewer trunk line. Infiltration of the sewers by ground water getting into broken sewer pipes (which are ancient and made of dubious materials) has a real effect on the treatment plant, but fixing the problem means open trenches which people despise and resent.
It’s always nice to start with a clean sheet of paper, but that’s not what a town is. Rather it’s an exercise in givens, using the complexity to find niches and accommodations, uncovering new clients for old spaces and new spaces for pre-existing clients. Oh! That’s ecology!
Besides cruising the town, I pulled up stuff on the internet. Get a load of this house, probably the newest and most expensive in town and built right on the airport. Why? I have no idea. But it's for sale. Price-reduced. Sort of works against the theory that elaborate housing with views of the lake will coax rich people to move here.