BOZEMAN — On Monday, Montana House legislators voted 65 to 35 in support of a bill that would stop local governments from requiring the development of affordable housing in a community.
And Bozeman City Commissioners are not pleased with the legislation.
If a developer is building more than ten units in a subdivision in Bozeman, ten percent of them are required to be affordable, or developers can pay cash in lieu which goes directly back into the city’s affordable housing programs.
But this practice could be blocked by Montana legislators.
“That bill passing out of the house was infuriating, frankly,” said Bozeman Mayor Cyndy Andrus.
Earlier this week, Republican Representative Sue Vinton of Billings introduced House Bill 259, which could block local governments from establishing zoning rules that would require builders to pay a fee, or set aside property for affordable units in a new development.
“This practice often referred to as inclusionary zoning is taking place in some of our communities despite the negative impact such an intrusive mandate has on the market, as well as cost-shifting to the properties,” said Vinton on Monday.
Bozeman City Commissioners disagree and say it's been a tool to help create more affordable housing in a community where there’s an affordable housing crisis.
“There are 17 homes that are now lived by people who are making affordable housing wages. We just the other night approved a site plan that calls for 14 more. And we’re seeing more and more plans being developed as land is being annexed,” said Deputy Mayor Terry Cunningham.
“And we think that it really is just starting to get going now.”
Bozeman developer Greg Stratton has developed affordable housing units because of the city’s inclusionary zoning policy and says they’ve had no problem supporting it.
“We’ve always complied with it. It really hasn’t been a problem for us. I know a lot of the other developers were negative towards it,” said Stratton.
Stratton says the bill in the legislature could be a setback, but also an opportunity for the city to get more creative when it comes to addressing the affordable housing crisis.
“When I look at the results of the inclusionary zoning versus the results of using other avenues at promoting affordable housing, inclusionary zoning has not been the most productive method of doing it,” added Stratton.
But commissioners say if the bill becomes law, their hands even more.
“This bill does not solve a problem. It creates a bigger problem. In that it takes away one of our tools that helps us to create affordable housing,” said Mayor Andrus.