I have lived in the small, Montana town of Belgrade my entire life. Located 2 hours away is the populous city of Billings. Having traveled to Billings often I have found several reasons someone would not want to move there.
In addition to my own knowledge of Billings, I have surveyed my friends, family members, and acquaintances who live in or around the city. Based on the answers I received, below I have compiled a comprehensive list of reasons not to move to Billings Montana.
17. Not a “Fancy” Town
One feature many look forward to in big cities in the higher end, the “fancy” part of town. This part of town typically has a vibrant nightlife consisting of nightclubs, fine dining, as well as other activities.
Although Billings is the largest city in Montana, it does not have this “uptown” area.
A night on the town in Billings would include frequenting a local bar or chain restaurant. Although dancing can be found in some bars the majority will not.
16. Too Many Casinos
Although Billings once had a vibrant nightlife, much of the vivacity of the area has been drained by the invasion of casinos.
One Billing’s resident said, “The gambling industry literally SUCKED THE LIFE from the adult entertainment scene. The bar scene is filled with heavy -scary drinkers – and the clubs all struggle to survive, much less thrive.”
More so, these gas-station type casinos have furthered the process of Billings’ urban sprawl. Casinos are pulling the town outwards and pulling customers out of the few local bars and night clubs remaining.
15. Warm Temperatures
One myth about Montana is that the whole state is cold, all the time. The truth is that although Montana winters can become quite severe, the same can be said about our summers.
Located in eastern Montana, Billings actually experiences mild winters compared to the rest of the state. However, a typical summer day in Billings can go well beyond the 90s.
“Billings gets more 95F days than any place I lived in MT”DL, Local Montanan
If you move to Billings, be prepared not only for high temperatures but dry air as well. Unlike much of the eastern United States, Montana does not experience strong humidity, with Billings being one of the driest areas.
In the summers expect a high electricity bill from running the air conditioner night and day.
14. Not an Outdoor Oasis
Montana is known for its beautiful landscapes, incredible hikes, and abundant wildlife. Unfortunately, where Billings is located, these Montana must-haves are not readily available.
Almost anywhere else in the state, nature is waiting directly outside your front door or at most a short drive away from it. Residents of Billings have to travel westward to find anything different from the flat, dry land around the city.
The plus side is that they do not have to commute exceedingly far. Billings is only a three-hour drive from a Yellowstone National Park entrance and an hour away from the Red Lodge Mountain skiing.
13. The View
A poor view should not necessarily be the reason for choosing not to move to Billings; however, it can certainly be a factor.
As mentioned above, much of the area around Billings is flat, dry land. This does not make for beautiful views. This is of course assuming that from where you live you can even see outside of town.
The views around town are especially saddening. Many streets are littered with garbage and needles, unkempt buildings and homes can be found almost anywhere in town, and the oil refineries add an extra industrial eyesore to the area.
All that said, Billings is still in Montana, otherwise known as “The Big Sky State”. Here the sky just feels bigger and we enjoy incredible sunrises and sunsets.
12. Constant Construction
Traffic in and out of the city is constantly plagued with construction. With so many people in one area and extreme weather, roads can be worn out fast.
Not only is there frequent construction on the outskirts of the city, but there is road construction throughout the city as well. A part of your daily commute will likely include passing through at least one construction zone.
Although roads appear to always be under construction, somehow you never have to look very far for potholes to pop a tire on.
11. Conservative City
Most big cities have a reputation for being generally more liberal than small towns in the same state. However, Billings keeps in trend with other Montana towns in pursuing conservative values.
Known as a “big, little town” the population of Billings is primarily conservative as well as the environment of the town.
If you are moving there in hopes the big city will vary from the rest of the state politically, you will be severely disappointed.
10. Unfriendly People
Although stereotyped as rough and rugged farmers or mountain men, Montanans are relatively charming, kind people.
Driving through a small community, you will see everybody waving to one another, even if they don’t know each other. It’s part of what makes Montana feel like one big community.
Unfortunately, Billings is the black sheep of the family. Much of that Montana charm is lost in the environment of the big city.
The community is diverse being that the city is close to both the Crow and Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservations. This has helped Billing claim the title of the most diverse city in Montana.
Unfortunately, racism has become a rather prevalent issue in Billings hindering the cooperation of its diverse population.
Overall, Montanans are welcoming and friendly people; however, as more people move to our state many have become stand-offish towards out of staters.
9. Low Income
One of the most important factors of living somewhere is making enough money to actually survive there.
According to the US Census Bureau, the average household income of Billings is just over 30 thousand dollars. This is half of the national average household income, making Billings a low-income area.
If you are looking for a higher-paying job, I would suggest that you look elsewhere.
8. Stacked Population
Billings is the highest populated town in all of Montana. The total population in 2019, as estimated by the US Census Bureau, was 109,595 people.
The Bureau also reported that the entire population was crammed into only 44.72 square miles. This makes the population per square mile over two thousand people! (2,450.69 to be exact.)
With so many people living in such a condensed area, this can lead to many confrontations. One local described the many events they had endured during their time in Billings:
“… I live downtown. And so, I’ve had the privilege of having people piss in my lawn, throw beer bottles against my house, fall asleep on my steps, use my sprinklers to bathe, climb over my fence into my backyard to use the hose directly, walk right into my house (three times) … attempt to walk in four more times (door was locked for the night), break into one of our cars, and generally exist so loudly and in such close proximity that my dog remains constantly aware of them and barks often and loudly as they walk around outside.”Billings Local
There just simply isn’t enough space for everyone to coexist peacefully without expanding the city even further into the Montana wilderness.
7. Lack of Housing
With so many people in the area, a no-brainer issue is the lack of housing. In Billings, the issue is especially a lack of suitable housing.
Although one may think they have found an affordable home or apartment at a great deal, chances are there is something seriously wrong with it.
The housing shortage does not affect solely Billings and is an issue all across the state of Montana. With so few available homes and apartments, the existing ones can be quite expensive.
Only 2 hours from Billings in Bozeman, Montana you will find some of the most expensive housing in the United States.
6. The Smell
If you are like me and don’t have a sense of smell then you should have no problem breathing in Billings. However, for the rest of you, the unappealing smell may pose an issue with living there.
Although I can not personally attest to the town smelling bad, many locals informed me that this was in fact an issue with living in Billings.
This foul smell results from the two refineries as well as the close quarters of the city. It’s simple, the closer people are, the harder it will be to keep the area clean. Adding the refineries to the mix only worsens the problem.
5. Big City Problems, on a Large Town Budget
As aforementioned, Billings is a big, little city. There are lots of people, but it acts much like a small town. Aside from the behavior of its citizens, Billings city’s budget reflects a small town as well.
One of the greatest issues facing Billings is homelessness. Hundreds of homeless people find themselves in the streets of Billings. Shelters overcrowded and the police force understaffed to help settle disputes among the population.
Homelessness is not Billings’ only issue hindered by a lack of funding. The cities, large town budget has led to a variety of issues throughout the area.
4. Strong Wind Speeds
Like any Montana town, it could be snowing in the morning in Billings and sunny by the afternoon. However, another weather phenomenon affecting Billings is strong winds.
Even on the sunniest of days much of the area is plagued by damaging high wind speeds.
On some occasions, these wind speeds can even lead to tornadoes. In 2010, a tornado struck Billings on Father’s day. Rated as an EF2 this tornado tore through town for 12 minutes. The majority of the damage was structural but cost over thirty million dollars in repairs.
Although a tornado is a rare occurrence, high wind speeds are something you can count on often.
3. Bad Drivers
According to several residents, Billings is populated by many bad drivers. This includes slow-moving vehicles on the highways as well as reckless teens texting and driving.
With so many people in one area, one bad driver could lead to several serious accidents. Now imagine a population of bad drivers all condensed into one area.
In regards to drivers, one local describes the driving scene as follows:
“Lack of patience and recklessness. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen people cut right in front of other people when there’s no one behind them.”Austin, Local Montanan
2. Drugs and Alcohol
One of the biggest issues taking place in Billings is a rampant drug and alcohol problem. The abundant use of meth in Billings has led to serious crime and cleanliness issues.
As aforementioned, it is not hard to find a used needle laying on the ground when walking the streets of Billings. This not only makes the streets dirty but dangerous too.
In terms of crime, I will go more in-depth in the next section. However, homes and vehicles are frequently invaded in search of drugs and alcohol.
The biggest issue with Billings is the crime problem. The crime rate of Billings is one of the highest in the United States.
According to The Neighborhood Scout, Billings Montana is only safer than 5% of all US cities. More so, the chance of becoming a victim of violent crime in Billings is 1 in 162. Now I don’t know about you, but I am not a fan of those odds.
Additionally, certain neighborhoods should be avoided.
I remember visiting a family member as a child and looking at the surroundings of their home. Sirens blared a few blocks down and my mother ushered us into the car and locking the door behind her.
Research the neighborhoods and crime rates before purchasing a house in Billings and as a rule of thumb, avoid South Park.
To see the location of crimes in Billings check out this interactive map by the Billings Police Department.
Although this list may paint Billings to be an unlivable place, several locals spoke favorably of the city pointing out that for every negative they could see several positives.
I like it here in Billings…not sure what to warn you about…our winters are more mild, we have lots of warm sunny days in the summer. Some parts of town are better than others…and people in general don’t seem to drive any better or worse than any other town/city. I guess it is what you make it!Jennifer, Local Montanan
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