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Governor Gianforte Extends Housing Task Force

Governor Greg Gianforte last week extended his housing task force, which he launched in July 2022, through June 2025.

"While we've made great progress to increase the supply of affordable, attainable housing for Montanans, there's more work to do, and we're not done yet," Gov. Gianforte said. "I look forward to our Housing Task Force continuing to develop more commonsense solutions to address one of the most pressing issues facing hardworking Montanans."

State agency leaders, legislators, local officials, association representatives, economists, researchers, stakeholders, and advocates make up the task force, which Department of Environmental Quality Director Chris Dorrington chairs.

Spearheading state efforts to resolve the housing supply shortage, the governor launched a diverse, bipartisan Housing Task Force in July 2022. The governor's task force produced two reports last year that identified problems at the root of the state's housing shortage and provided solutions that could be implemented administratively or through changes to law.

The task force's recommendations provided a roadmap for lawmakers ahead of the 2023 legislative session, leading to the historic pro-housing reforms adopted in Montana that some have dubbed the "Montana Miracle."

Delivering on task force recommendations, the governor signed into law the Montana Land Use Planning Act to advance pro-housing reforms in local jurisdictions.

Sponsored by Sen. Forrest Mandeville, R-Columbus, Senate Bill 382 broadly reaffirms landowners' rights to construct affordable starter homes, establishes pro-housing reform options local governments must select from to encourage housing development, and requires local governments to reform zoning regulations to meet future housing needs.

The governor also signed into law two bills to overhaul local regulations that were stifling the supply of housing for Montanans and to give landowners more freedom to respond to housing needs. Senate Bill 528, carried by Sen. Greg Hertz, R-Polson, restores landowners' rights to build affordable starter homes by allowing accessory dwelling units, and Senate Bill 245, sponsored by Sen. Daniel Zolnikov, R-Billings, expands landowners' ability to build new homes in urban areas to protect rural areas and ag land from sprawl.

Gov. Gianforte also signed Senate Bill 323, sponsored by Sen. Jeremy Trebas, R-Great Falls, to allow duplex housing in city zoning, as well as Senate Bill 407, sponsored by Sen. Shane Morigeau, D-Missoula, to streamline permitting for commercial and residential development by eliminating local design review by volunteer boards, reducing costs associated with permitting delays.

Gov. Gianforte also signed bills into law that reform the subdivision review process and eliminate unnecessary permitting hurdles for homebuilding. The legislature adopted many of these measures with bipartisan support.

House Bill 211, sponsored by Rep. Larry Brewster, R-Billings, expedites the subdivision review process by cutting red tape for applicants and local governments.

Sponsored by Sen. Forrest Mandeville, R-Columbus, Senate Bill 131 streamlines local government review requirements and requires local jurisdictions to review an application for a division of land within 20 days. Sen. Mandeville's Senate Bill 170 overhauls and streamlines the review process for minor subdivisions.

Senate Bill 240, sponsored by Sen. Jason Small, R-Busby, exempts applications for smaller subdivisions from review by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality if those subdivisions meet certain requirements. The bill also provides environmental safeguards.

Additionally, the governor signed House Bill 819 into law. Sponsored by Rep. Paul Green, R-Hardin, the new law invests over $175 million to increase the supply of affordable workforce housing, including a $105 million investment in the governor's HOMES program to expand water and sewer infrastructure and ultimately increase the supply of affordable workforce housing.

Delivering on the task force's recommendations, the governor nearly doubled the Montana Trades Education Credit (MTEC), signing into law House Bill 245 which Rep. Sue Vinton, R-Billings, sponsored. Designed to boost the skills of hardworking Montanans and meet the needs of employers, the governor in 2021 proposed and established MTEC that provides employers a tax credit for employee education and training.

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