Builders Contribute to Sweeping Housing Reforms in Montana
Residential construction industry leaders in Montana participated in several discussions with Gov. Greg Gianforte, who recently signed multiple bills into law to boost the housing supply and expand consumer choice in the state.
“As everywhere else in the country, Montana has a housing shortage and has not been building to meet demand since the great recession,” said Southwest Montana BIA member Eugene Graf, owner of E.G. Construction in Bozeman, Mont.
The housing reforms are known as the Montana Miracle since the state’s politically conservative legislative body passed many progressive, pro-housing laws with input from housing stakeholders across the political spectrum. The reforms overhaul housing mandates and zoning regulations, encourage denser housing development, streamline subdivision reviews, and invest in skilled trades training.
Graf serves on the Housing Task Force, launched last year by Gianforte. The bipartisan group is composed of state agency leaders, local officials, advocates, researchers, economists and association leaders. The task force goal is to provide lawmakers with recommendations on how to improve housing affordability and attainability in the state.
Since the launch of the task force, Gianforte signed several bills into law, including:
- House Bill 211 and Senate Bill 170: streamlines the review process for subdivisions.
- Senate Bill 382: requires local governments to reform zoning regulations.
- Senate Bill 528: restores landowners’ rights to build accessory dwelling units.
- Senate Bill 245: expands landowners’ ability to build new homes in urban areas.
- Senate Bill 323: allows duplex housing in city zoning.
- Senate Bill 407: eliminates local design review by volunteer boards.
- Senate Bill 131: requires local jurisdictions to review an application for a division of land within 20 days.
- Senate Bill 240: 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.
- House Bill 819: invests over $175 million to increase the supply of affordable workforce housing and $105 million to expand water and sewer infrastructure.
- House Bill 245: nearly doubles the Montana Trades Education Credit (MTEC), which provides employers a tax credit for employee education and training.
The governor has extended the work of the housing task force through June 2025.
“It is still pretty early to see results of this legislation in the practical sense,” said Graf. “However, the excitement of being proactive rather than reactive to the market has been supported in a way never before seen. If implemented locally as intended, the development times for new projects could be reduced by as much as two years meaning builders can start to produce the much-needed housing much more quickly.”