I started renting, again, in 2008.  My husband had just died, and I couldn’t fathom the thought of taking care of my house and yard.  At that time, I rented a 3 bedroom, 2 bath house for me, my daughter and our 2 dogs for $850.  It was in a decent neighborhood, in the 30’s on 2nd Avenue North, so not a bad deal, really.  (Except a landlord that took socks, but that’s another story for another day.)

Fast forward to late December 2018/early January 2019 when I got my latest rental house.  When I rented it, I thought it was a bit pricey, but it checked off all the boxes I had been looking for, for well over a year, and the landlords seemed really cool.  I pay $820 a month for 650 square feet and loads of new in the house (It’s just under 10 years old) and a garage. There are 2 bedrooms and one bathroom.  It’s just a few blocks away from Great Falls High.

Today, I went on some rental sites, picturing myself, my then 13-year-old daughter and our 2 dogs trying to get a house now.  Here’s what I found:  1. Almost ZERO chance of getting the dogs in the rental anywhere.  The few that do allow dogs, charge $500 or so deposit on each pet, and usually a monthly fee for the pet.  (Because face it, we don’t spend enough on our pets as it is.) 2. For a house with 3 bedrooms, 2 baths and a yard, I’d have to pay over $2,000 a month, and the landlord said to ask about pets, which means an extra fee.   I could rent a 3-bedroom 1.5-bathroom APARTMENT for $1,150.  No pets.

I realize rent prices go up over time.  I realize that for most landlords, rentals are an investment. I realize you put your blood, sweat and tears into it.

I’m wondering, do landlords realize the average income in Great Falls is $29,909 a year?  Doing my really bad and basic math, taking 20% out for taxes and using the old adage, "Pay 1/3 of your income for rent.", that leaves the average single parent around $600 a month for rent (about $750 if you figure your rent budget on your gross take-home pay).  How is that sustainable?

House payments are even worse.  We’ll get into that down the road.