Submitted by Kaitlin Price
Joining a bipartisan group of community leaders and pro-housing advocates, Governor Greg Gianforte today urged legislative action on commonsense, pro-housing reform at a high-density housing project in Missoula County. “We need bold, transformational pro-housing reform so more Montanans can achieve the American dream of homeownership. Let’s get it done,” Gov. Gianforte said, highlighting elements of his agenda to increase Montanans’ access to affordable, attainable housing.
Gov. Gianforte is spearheading state efforts to resolve the housing supply shortage, standing up a diverse, bipartisan Housing Task Force last summer to make recommendations to increase the supply of affordable, attainable housing. Three members of his task force – Adam Hertz, a developer with ERA Lambros Real Estate and secretary of the Board of Housing, Danny Tenenbaum, a former Democratic state representative from Missoula, and Kendall Cotton, president and CEO of the Frontier Institute – and two pro-housing members of the Missoula City Council, Sandra Vasecka and Daniel Cardillo, joined the governor today. In line with one of his task force’s recommendations, Gov. Gianforte proposed the Home Ownership Means Economic Security (HOMES) Program in his Budget for Montana Families.
Carried by Rep. Mike Hopkins, R-Missoula, in HB 825, the HOMES program invests $200 million to expand water and sewer infrastructure and ultimately increase the supply of affordable workforce housing. Gov. Gianforte praised several other legislators carrying pro-housing reforms. Sen. Forrest Mandeville, R-Columbus, is carrying SB 382 to streamline permitting and require local jurisdictions to adopt a host of pro-housing reforms. Sen. Greg Hertz, R-Polson, introduced SB 258 to give landowners more freedom to build affordable starter homes by allowing accessory dwelling units. Sen. Daniel Zolnikov, R-Billings, is sponsoring SB 245 to give landowners more freedom to build new homes in urban areas, to protect rural areas and ag land from sprawl.
Finally, the governor praised Sen. Jeremy Trebas, R-Great Falls, who is carrying SB 323 to allow for more dense housing – duplex, triplex, and fourplex housing – in urban areas by ending exclusionary zoning. “Housing is a top priority for Montanans. Let’s deliver. Let’s get these pro-housing reforms across the finish line,” the governor said. Pro-housing advocates at the event echoed the governor’s calls for bipartisan, commonsense pro-housing reform. “We need to make it easier for Montanans to live in the communities where they work, so I join the governor’s call for the legislature to take action on these important bills,” Danny Tenenbaum said. The governor and group urged county and local partners to prioritize zoning reform.
“Zoning regulations constrict housing supply and make affordable housing less accessible,” Gov. Gianforte said. “It’s time to remove these roadblocks so Montanans can better afford to live in the communities they work in.” The demand for more housing has outpaced homebuilding over the last decade in Montana. Between 2010 and 2020, Montana’s population grew by 9.6 percent, outpacing the state’s housing unit growth of 6.6 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Driven by increased consumer demand, rising inflation, and national supply chain breakdowns, the cost of building a new home has soared, with private residential construction costs skyrocketing 18.4 percent nationally between March 2021 and March 2022, according to the Census Bureau.
Kendall Cotton added, “Thanks to the governor’s leadership, bringing together a bipartisan effort, we will tackle this issue and be a model for how a rural, purple state can take on the housing affordability crisis.”