Gianforte appoints affordable housing task force | 406 Politics

July 15, 2022

Montana Loans

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Gov. Greg Gianforte on Thursday appointed a committee to tackle Montana’s housing crisis, asking the group to recommend steps the state can take to address affordability and availability.

Gianforte on Thursday signed an executive order creating the new Housing Advisory Council. The 26-member task force will meet for the first time next week with a directive to make recommendations to the state legislature and state agencies to “increase the supply of affordable and accessible housing for the workforce”.

“Owning a home is part of the American dream, but for more than a decade it has become increasingly difficult for Montana residents to afford to own or rent a home,” Gianforte said in a statement, calling the current regulations “heavy”. ”

The executive order also cites a labor shortage in construction, zoning, a lack of entry-level homes, and a lack of property developers and land for development. Population growth outstripped new housing starts, and increased demand and supply chain delays pushed construction costs up more than 18%, the order said.

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“Montana is facing an affordable and accessible housing crisis that poses significant challenges to hard-working Montanese, employers, communities, and the economic health of the state,” the order reads.

The order directs the task force to release a report to the Legislative Assembly by October 15 on potential legal changes and a report to the governor by December 15 on actions that state agencies or local governments can take. Without limiting the scope, the order again identifies regulations and zoning as considerations in reporting.

The task force announcement comes a day after Democratic lawmakers proposed spending $500 million of the state budget surplus on housing, specifically to fund low- or no-interest loan programs. to finance multi-family housing.

The executive order does not specifically mention public funding as a potential solution, but neither does it eliminate it.

Montana Department of Environmental Quality Director Chris Dorrington will chair the task force. Other members include other state and local officials, business interests, and housing experts.

In May, Helena Area Habitat for Humanity ran a full-page ad in the Independent Record imploring the governor and other state and local officials to take specific action to address the housing crisis.

Executive Director Jacob Kuntz is among the board appointees. He expressed some encouragement at the task force news on Thursday.

“A lot of action is needed on housing right now,” he said. “…Our big thing here is that when you think about housing, it’s not just for the poorest of people, but it’s part of the job to help run Montana, part of the economy. of State.”

Kuntz described a housing talk trap as falling into solution silos. Often, Republicans focus on regulatory issues while Democrats focus on finance by pushing for public funding. He hopes the task force will be able to bridge some of these divides and focus on solutions such as infrastructure and incentivizing for-profit and non-profit construction.

“Everything has to be on the table to do that,” Kuntz said. “The solution is to build more houses. There is no other solution.”

The council will meet next Wednesday in Helena.

Other members of the working group include:

  • Senator Ellie Boldman, D, Missoula
  • Senator Greg Hertz, R, Polson
  • Representative Danny Tenenbaum, D, Missoula
  • Rep. Sue Vinton, R, Billings
  • Patrick Barkey, Ph.D., director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana
  • Terry Brockie, CEO of Island Mountain Development Group
  • Ross Butcher, Fergus County Commissioner
  • Kendall Cotton, President and CEO of the Frontier Institute
  • Nathan Dugan, President and Co-Founder of Shelter WF
  • Mark Egge, Affordable Housing Advocate, Data Scientist and Former Bozeman Planning Board Member
  • Laurie Esau, Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry
  • Jaclyn Giop, president of the Montana Water Well Drillers Association
  • Eugène Graf, owner of EG Construction
  • Emily Hamilton, Ph.D., Principal Investigator and Director of the Urbanity Project at Mercatus Center
  • Adam Hertz, secretary of the Montana Board of Housing
  • Amanda Kaster, Director of the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation
  • Bob Kelly, Mayor of Great Falls
  • Bill Leininger, president of the Montana Association of Realtors
  • Todd O’Hair, president and CEO of the Montana Chamber of Commerce
  • Scott Osterman, Commerce Department Director
  • Nicole Rolf, senior director of government affairs at the Montana Farm Bureau Federation
  • Mike Smith, Glacier Bank Market President
  • Valerie Stacey, Lewis and Clark County Environmental Health Specialist
  • Montana Housing Coalition Steering Committee Member Don Sterhan; President and CEO of Mountain Plains Equity Group

Tom Kuglin is Deputy State Bureau Editor of Lee Newspapers. Its coverage focuses on the outdoors, recreation and natural resources.