Prairie county, montana

Table B.8 Housing Units by Householder’s Age: Prairie County, 2000

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Table B.8 Housing Units by Householder’s Age: Prairie County, 2000




% of Total




































85 and older










Source: U.S. Census Bureau 2000 Summary File 1
There were a total of 369 households in Prairie County with two or more persons in 2000. According to Census data, approximately 66% of reported households in Prairie County are families. The average family size in Prairie County in 2000 was 2.74.
Table B.9 Housing Units by Householder’s Size: Prairie County, 2000

Household Size

Number of Households

















6-Persons or more



Source: 2000 Census, Summary File 1
Affordability of Housing
The ability to afford housing depends on household income. Housing affordability is gauged by the percentage of income paid by a household for rent and utilities, or house payment plus taxes and insurance. The amount available for housing is typically calculated at between 28 and 30 percent of gross household income. Table B.10 displays median household income, the amount that would be available monthly for housing based on a maximum of thirty percent of gross income, and the average cost of housing in Prairie County and Montana.
Table B.10 Comparison of Median Household Income and Monthly Costs of Housing

Prairie County


Median Household Annual Income



Median Household Monthly Income



Amount Available for Monthly Housing Costs



Monthly Housing Cost



Source: 2000 U.S. Census, Housing and Household Economic Statistics Division.
The median household annual income for residents in Prairie County in 2000 was $25,451. Table B.10 indicates that the amount available for monthly housing costs in Prairie County is $636. (Median income indicates that half of the households have income less than the median amount and half have income greater than the median amount.) The monthly housing cost in Prairie County in 2000 was $283.
According to the Census, the average monthly (median) gross rent was $283 in 2000. Approximately 6.6% of renters in Prairie County have meals included in rent. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2000 Summary File 3)
The average value of a home in Prairie County in 2000, according to Census figures, was $36,500. Montana’s average value of a home was $99,500 in 2000. The Billings Gazette reports that the average home price in Billings in 2005 was $149,000.
Housing Assistance
Prairie County has subsidized elderly and low-income housing available in the Town of Fallon. Four units are available (2 one bedroom, 2 two bedroom).
Housing assistance is available to persons who meet income guidelines and to seniors and persons with disabilities.
Agencies providing assistance in Prairie County include:

  • Action for Eastern Montana, Glendive--various programs including HUD rental assistance programs, utility assistance, and weatherization programs and assistance providing low-income housing.

  • Montana Department of Commerce, Helena--various programs under the Housing Division, including CDBG and HOME programs--available to local governments and nonprofits.

  • USDA Rural Development, Billings

  • Eastern Plains RC&D

Rental Assistance
Persons meeting income and/or age requirements are eligible for rental assistance from HUD, Section 8 Rental Voucher Program and from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development through subsidized housing.
The Section 8 voucher program for Prairie County is administered by Action for Eastern Montana in Glendive. The voucher program allows the tenant to choose a house or apartment as long as it meets program standards. Rent is paid with a combination of tenant payments and Section 8 voucher assistance. Tenants must use at least 30 percent of their adjusted gross income as payment toward rent but can use up to 40 percent if the rental unit exceeds Section 8 Rental Standards. The amount of voucher assistance is determined by tenant’s income and family size. The Section 8 voucher program can also provide utility assistance to the tenant if utilities are not included in the rental costs.

Table B.11 Section 8 Monthly Rent Standards for Units including Rent and Utilities for Prairie County and six surrounding counties.

1-Bedroom Unit

2-Bedroom Unit

3-Bedroom Unit

4-Bedroom Unit


























Prairie County










Source: Action for Eastern Montana
Action for Eastern Montana had a waiting list of 602 households for Section 8 assistance as of September 2005 for 17 counties in eastern Montana. As of September 2005, there were two households receiving Section 8 housing assistance in Prairie County and one household on the waiting list.
Action for Eastern Montana in Glendive administers the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) for Prairie County residents needing help paying utility bills. Assistance is provided to persons of any age, based on their income, number of persons in the household, number of rooms in the housing unit, type of heating, and other factors. Assistance is provided by LEAP from October 1 through April 30 of every year.
USDA Rural Development assists homebuyers with loan assistance (502 program) or loan guarantees. USDA Rural Development provides single-family housing assistance in Prairie County through the Billings office. The 502 Program provides financing options for low and very low-income families with little or no down payment and reduced interest rates. The guaranteed loans are used to assist low-to-moderate income families who cannot obtain conventional financing without assistance. Under this program, Rural Development provides 100% direct financing and payment is subsidized based on income and household size. This eliminates down payment costs and insurance premium costs. Rural Development has not provided any housing assistance in Prairie County using the 502 Program.
USDA Rural Development provides home improvement loans and grants under its 504 program. Applicants must have annual income that does not exceed the low-income limit. Only persons 62 years and older are eligible for grants. Rural Development has not provided any housing assistance in Prairie County using the 504 Program.
Eastern Plains RC&D provides homeowner assistance and loans to qualifying first time homebuyers.
Group Quarters
Defined as quarters that house persons not living in households. Typical types of group quarters include nursing care facilities, group homes, detention centers and dormitories. According to Census information, there were 24 people living in group quarters in Prairie County in 2000.

Conclusions & Projected Trends

Over the previous decade, Prairie County has encountered an increase in seasonal, recreational and occasional use housing units. This trend is expected to continue. Prairie County has also experienced a slight increase in vacant housing units, which may be attributed to absentee homeowners or the lack of population needed to occupy available houses.

Almost half of the houses inventoried by the Bureau of the Census in the year 2000 were built in 1939 or earlier. Therefore, some of the houses in Prairie County may be in need of improvements.
The PCLPB has identified the following issues, goals and objectives for housing in Prairie County:
Issue: Lack of adequate/suitable housing in Prairie County.
3.) Goal: Secure assistance through grants and other programs to remove vacant and or nuisance housing.
4,) Goal: Secure assistance through grants and other programs to improve and/or build housing.
5.) Goal: Work with the USDA Rural Development and other housing organizations on housing options and opportunities.
Issue: Lack of housing for sale or rent.
6.) Goal: Promote opportunities for homeowners to sell or rent vacant houses.

7a.) Encourage retirees to relocate in Prairie County and build or renovate structures as retirees often have more personal savings to invest.
7b.) Establish a community rental directory and a community property for sale directory that landowners and house owners can voluntarily list their names and properties for prospective clients to easily access. These directories could be located at a certain well-known local spot that newcomers could easily locate.
7.) Goal: Improve housing options in Prairie County, encouraging homebuilders and developers to contact the appropriate agency for guidance on subdividing land and building.


8a.) Renovate existing housing through government assistance and/or temporary county tax incentives.
7b.) Identify government grants and assistance for renovating aging housing and make them more widely known.
7c.) Support the work of existing housing organizations, Community Development Block Grant programs, USDA Rural Development and others to identify housing needs, planning options and funding sources.
8.) Goal: Encourage and support an increase in the variety of housing options for seniors.

8a.) Support the work of existing housing organizations, Community Development Block Grant programs, USDA Rural Development and others to identify housing needs, planning options and funding sources.

8b.) Encourage development of assisted living units.
9.) Goal: Keep Prairie County subdivision laws to a minimum, while meeting state and federal criteria.

9a.) Encourage construction of new housing.

9b.) Assist people who want to build new housing with an easy, brief overview of actions they have to take to comply with Prairie County Subdivision laws including Sanitation, utilities and access.
10.) Goal: Stress that developers use soil sample information for proper layout of subdivision and floodplain consideration where appropriate.
11.) Goal: Encourage placement of future industry to minimize undesirable effects.

12.) Goal: Encourage compatible commercial and residential development.
13.) Goal: Promote housing opportunities on the Internet.

13a.) Keep citizens informed.

13b.) Provide easy access to information.

13c.) Centralized source of information for County residents.

Prairie County is primarily an agriculture-based, rural community. Agriculture and government are the main sources of employment. In 2003, agriculture in Prairie County brought in total cash receipts (from the sale of principal products) of approximately $23 million in crops, ranking 37th in the State of Montana.
Water is vital to Prairie County’s economy. The Yellowstone and Powder Rivers bring much needed water to the area for irrigation, livestock and domestic uses. There is a reserved water right held by the Prairie County Conservation District that has the potential to increase irrigated crops in the area, thereby improving the local economy. More information on water is available in the Natural Resources section.
Public lands are economically important to Prairie County, specifically for grazing, recreation, hunting and tax revenue (PILT). For these reasons, the economy in Prairie County is heavily tied to the multiple use management of public lands in the County. BLM is responsible for managing over 40% of total land in the County.
According to a USDA Agricultural Outlook report, the Prairie County economy is heavily dependent on livestock production. The value of agricultural products are equivalent to 96% of personal income and 69% of the value of agricultural products coming from livestock sales. Prairie County gets 10-30% of forage for livestock from public lands. In 2003, total cash receipts from the sale of livestock and livestock products equaled approximately $18 million, ranking Prairie County 28th in the State of Montana in livestock production.
There is evidence of the growing demand for recreational use of public lands. Recent statistics show that for lands managed by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, visitor days for recreation increased from 225 million in 1983 to over 400 million in 1997. (Economic Research Service, USDA, 2002) This increase indicates a growing recreational demand on public lands. Prairie County has approximately 43,000 acres of land designated as a Wilderness Study Area. Livestock grazing is permitted on these lands through an agreement with the Bureau of Land Management and private individuals. According to the latest information available, there are six operators with grazing permits in the Wilderness Study Area. These operators have 5,267 animal unit months (the amount of feed or forage required by one, mature 1,000 pound cow or equivalent). There are currently 119,847 AUM’s available in Prairie County and approximately 105,000 AUM’s are being used in a given year. The average animal cow/calf fee for the state of Montana is $17.40 per AUM. The Bureau of Land Management has control over roughly 200 acres of land in Prairie County that is considered Special Recreation Management Areas. These areas have been identified for future development for recreation and include Calypso Bridge and the Powder River Depot. In addition, the Lewis and Clark Trail runs through Prairie County along the Yellowstone River and is considered a “special land use area” due to its historical value. Prairie County has numerous historical sites and Native American digs. Big Sheep Mountain is the highest point in Prairie County and offers recreational and sportsman opportunties.

The Yellowstone River attracts locals and tourists alike for the ample fishing opportunities and the chance at stumbling upon a treasured Yellowstone Agate. Agates have provided a source of income for some residents, who make beautiful jewelry and sell it in local stores. Agate hunting provides a source of entertainment and enjoyment for Prairie County residents and is considered valuable to our local heritage and culture.

Hunting is a very popular in Prairie County for residents and out-of-staters alike. This region produces a significant number of deer, antelope and upland game birds. Every hunting season, hunters come to the area, supporting our local economy by buying gas, groceries, lodging and shopping at our local stores. The financial contribution of these activities to our economy is significant. Hunting is important for our agriculture-based operations as well, as wildlife numbers are high in the area, and local farmers and ranchers are inadvertently feeding the deer, antelope and bird populations.
In 2005, there were approximately 30 landowner cooperators in Prairie County who participated in the Block Management Program administered by the Fish, Wildlife and Parks. This program assists landowners in managing hunting activities on lands under their control and provides hunters with public hunting access to private and isolated public land free of charge. Landowner participation in block management is voluntary and contracts are negotiated annually. Block management in Prairie County in 2005 covered 334,136 acres of land.
Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) are payments to local governments to offset losses in property taxes due to nontaxable Federal lands within their boundaries. Prairie County has 429,469 acres of land that is eligible for PILT. Calculation of PILT payments is based on population numbers in the county. The law sets up a sliding scale of maximum PILT payments that may be made to each county based on population. In 2004, Prairie County received $75,566 as payment in lieu of taxes on 429,469 acres of land. This calculates to approximately 18 cents per acre. In comparison, private, dryland grazing land pays 40-60 cents per acre in taxes. Some more populous counties receive over $645,000 on approximately one million acres (Lewis and Clark County PILT Entitlement). There should be efforts made to ensure a more equitable distribution of funds.
Several businesses have closed their doors in Terry in the past ten years. Recently, the farm implement dealer in Terry closed it doors. Falkenstern Implement provided farm machinery, equipment and repairs to farmers in the area until 2003. This has proved to be a considerable hindrance for farmers in the area, as now they must travel at least 40 miles for parts. This can be especially difficult during harvest times, when the need for repairs slows down harvest and increases expenses.
The Yellowstone Bean Company expanded their business in Terry during the past decade. The company receives dry edible beans from area farmers and uses the railroad as a means of transportation of the commodity out of the county. In 2004, Prairie County farmers ranked third in the state for dry edible bean production. This is an area that should be concentrated on for added value.
Prairie County was the home of Lady Evelyn Cameron, a pioneer woman who took pictures of the Prairie County area at the turn of the 19th century. Cameron’s photographs are displayed at the Cameron Gallery and in several businesses in the Town of Terry. This should be capitalized on.
The Prairie County Economic Development Council has been active in promoting the area for economic development. Their vision statement is: A coordinated Prairie County effort, which improves the quality of life and produces a sustainable population through a viable and diversified economy.
Economic conditions affect the county population, land use, growth or decline in the area and personal income. All of these circumstances affect the county’s ability to fund services and infrastructure. The following information provides a glance into the previous three decades, looking at employment trends, trends in income and poverty levels, farm economics and revenue sources in Prairie County.
Employment Trends
Table C.1 displays information about employment by industry in Prairie County for 1970 through 2000. The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates employment according to the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) categories. Employment is measured as the average annual number of jobs and each job that a person holds is counted at full-weight regardless of whether it is full-time or part-time. The estimates are organized by type--wage and salary employment and self-employment (proprietors)--and by industry. Prairie County’s civilian labor force in 2000 was 663 people.
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