Housing Task Force assembling draft report, to be released Monday

By: - October 1, 2022 12:56 pm

Affordable housing illustration (Flickr/CC-BY-SA 2.0).

Looking at the impact of short-term rentals like AirBnb and property tax relief were among suggestions from Gov. Greg Gianforte’s Housing Task Force as members close in on the deadline for presenting recommendations.

The recommendations would largely provide incentives to developers and amend regulations, although some task force members expressed dissent over “one size fits all” approaches. Other ideas included local zoning reform and streamlining applications.

Four subcommittees made 18 recommendations in advance of the 2023 Montana Legislature. The recommendations in the report are directed towards measures the legislature could consider to later be signed into law by Gianforte. The full report is scheduled to be released to the public Monday.

Chris Dorrington, who also serves as the director for the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, said that he wanted to have dissenting opinions from task force members included in the report. However, he wanted to conduct a vote to ensure overall consensus.

“I’m comfortable at this point with a recommendation that not everybody agrees with,” he said. “I think it demonstrates that we vetted an idea fully, not everybody agrees.”

Members did not vote during the meeting and DEQ Public Policy Director Rebecca Harbage clarified Thursday that the vote, if taken, would largely be used as a “temperature check.”

Members of the public will be able to comment on the draft when it is posted Monday before the final report is submitted to Gianforte on Friday before the Saturday deadline.

The task force met Sept. 8 for each subtask to present their recommendations. Groups were focused on construction, local issues, regulations and the catch all, “economics and other.”


Executive Director of the Helena Area Habitat for Humanity Jacob Kuntz co-led the construction group. He said the largest issues identified in housing construction were supply chain and workforce shortages.

Recommended solutions included making use of existing infrastructure like water and sewer, changes in zoning regulations to maximize density, investment in infrastructure to encourage development, and investment in workforce development. Kuntz said that partnership between the public and private sector was something his group would like to see.

“I’m just hearing more and more that investment in infrastructure could be a potential way forward to provide that carrot to create that better relationship between the public and private sector,” Kuntz said.

Local Impact

Ideas submitted from this group included limiting the minimum lot size requirements for select residential construction. Another idea proposed would allow for accessory dwelling unit construction, often small backyard units, on single-family residential lots. ,

“There’s definitely a strong contingency that thinks that local zoning should remain an area of completely local control,” said Emily Hamilton, director of the Urbanity Project at the Mercatus Center. “I think there will certainly be a dissent written by one or more members of the task force.”

The group also proposed enacting an Affordable Housing Tax Credit tied to local zoning reform. As explained by Adam Hertz, secretary of the Montana Board of Housing and former Republican legislator, it would only be available in localities that meet some specific zoning requirements, supporting dense multifamily housing.

But Great Falls Mayor Bob Kelly said that zoning issues like lot size requirements were best left to local municipalities.

“One size fits all requirement doesn’t mean that, you know, what works in Missoula needs to work in Circle,” Kelly said.

Another recommendation included rewriting the Montana Subdivision and Platting Act to include more public input at the beginning stages of a new subdivision process and then have the final steps be more administrative.

Regulatory and Permitting

This group also proposed streamlining local zoning processes like holding a single public hearing instead of multiple ones, as well as faster effective dates for zoning amendments. Another idea included requiring reporting on short-term rentals, like AirBnbs or VRBOs.

Mark Egge, who co-led the group looking at regulatory issues, said the Department of Revenue may provide reporting on the tax revenue collected from short-term rentals.

“That at a minimum, would help establish kind of an order of magnitude understanding of where this may be a problem versus where it may be just to be an excuse,” said Egge, a former member of the Bozeman Planning Board.

Economics and Other

Sen. Ellie Boldman, D-Missoula said that county commissioners from both liberal and conservative counties alike were interested in lowering property taxes for citizens.

Boldman said communities like Whitefish and West Yellowstone have already voted to implement a resort tax, which can apply to hotels, rental cars and other services. The revenue, goes towards infrastructure.

Her group recommended an expansion on the resort tax for counties.

“What we’re proposing is that we do it to rebate property taxes for the folks that live and own homes in these communities,” Boldman said. “And so then it would become a property tax replacement and allow for us to tax the tourists for utilizing the infrastructure.”

Nathan Dugan, President and co-founder of Shelter WF, said in response that he was offering a “little bit of dissent” to blanket property tax relief incentives.

“There are a lot of people, myself included, that don’t need property tax relief. I think that that should be targeted to the people that do actually need it,” Dugan said.

Overview of Subtask force recommendations:
1 Construction
1a Maximize Existing Infrastructure and Infill Development Through Incentives
1b Prioritize State Investment In Sewer/Water Infrastructure
1c Expand Investment in Workforce Development
1d Encourage Innovative Methods in Home Construction
1e Encourage Collaborative Relationships Between the Public/Private Sectors

2 Economics and Other
2a Provide Immediate Supplemental Budget Allocations: Three State Agencies
2b Increase the Supply of Housing
2c Create Legislation Directed at Sale of “Publicly Controlled Lands”
2d Tourist County Property Tax Replacement Program/Housing Infrastructure

3 Local Issues
3a Preempt Residential Min. Lot Size Requirements Larger Than 2,500 Sq. Ft.
3b Allow Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) on All Single-Family Residential Lots
3c Re-write the Montana Subdivision and Platting Act
3d Enact a State Affordable Housing Tax Credit Tied to Local Zoning Reform
3e Provide for Housing Infrastructure Grant Program

4 Regulatory and Permitting
4a Streamline Local Permitting
4b Remove Bans on Multifamily Housing
4c Establish Zoning Sideboards in State Sideboard
4d Require Short-term Rental Reporting

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Nicole Girten
Nicole Girten

Nicole Girten is a reporter for the Daily Montanan. She previously worked at the Great Falls Tribune as a government watchdog reporter. She holds a degree from Florida State University and a Master of Science from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.