HELENA — Gov. Greg Gianforte says the task force he set up this summer to make recommendations on Montana’s housing challenges has made a good start, but more still needs to be done.
“After years of doing the same thing over and over again, it’s critical that we do something different, and it’s critical that we act together,” he said.
Gianforte kicked off a task force meeting at the Montana State Capitol Wednesday. It marked a transition for the group, from the first phase of their work to the second.
Last week, the task force released a report, outlining 18 initial recommendations for steps the Legislature could consider. They included incentives for home construction, support for infrastructure and workforce development, and potentially limiting local governments’ authority to use zoning to restrict denser, multi-family housing.
Montana Department of Environmental Quality director Chris Dorrington chairs the task force. He said Wednesday that he believes the recommendations “push the envelope,” and go deeper than what someone might have expected when they began their work in July.
“It’s a polarizing issue, so it affects a lot of people,” he said. “I was surprised at how many people coalesced on a set of ideas regarding incentives – regarding the problem, which is, in almost every community in Montana, there is a need for housing and improving the housing availability.”
At this point, the recommendations are just that: recommendations. Gianforte’s office says this is just a starting point as they look at what proposals might come forward during the 2023 legislative session, which starts in January. Many leaders have said housing is likely to be one of the top issues discussed in this session.
In the task force’s second phase, they’ll focus on ideas for regulatory changes that state and local agencies could make. The second report will be due to Gianforte by Dec. 15.
“I think it’s going to be looking at removal of red tape, removal of redundancy and really looking at the partnership of the state and the locals in order to get housing developed, housing available,” Dorrington said. “There’s still quite a lot of recommendations in the permitting process across many different venues, both at the state and local level, that I think we can do better.”
Dorrington encouraged the public to continue to weigh in as the task force does its work. You can find more information about their plans, schedule and recommendations on the DEQ website.