Saturday, July 20, 2024

Ruling against housing legislation is misguided

A judge in Gallatin County recently blocked two bills aimed at addressing Montana’s housing crisis, siding with a radical anti-housing interest group. The decision to block Senate Bill 323 and Senate Bill 528 is misguided and unfortunate. These bills passed with overwhelming bipartisan support and were signed into law by Governor Gianforte.

Housing affordability is a major issue in Montana. Many Montanans can no longer afford to live in the communities in which they grew up. To protect our Montana way of life, we need to find ways to increase housing options in ways that respect our history and existing communities. These bills are part of that solution to allow more options for property owners and would-be homeowners.

SB 323 would allow people to build duplexes on single-family zoned lots in larger cities, increasing the supply of affordable housing. SB 528 would allow accessory dwelling units, commonly called mother-in-law apartments, to be built in residential areas. These are common sense housing reforms that expand property rights and offer an alternative to urban sprawl. These bills do not force anyone to build anything, but simply allow for market-based solutions for homeowners and homebuyers.

Unfortunately, Judge Salvagni issued a bizarre opinion that limits property rights and sides with wealthy out-of-touch elites. Wealthy out-of-staters are the ones who will benefit from this decision, while hard-working Montanans will continue to struggle to find housing.

We are hopeful that this misguided decision will be overturned and that these and other laws will ultimately be upheld. We are committed to continue to support reforms that will increase housing options and affordability while protecting private property rights.

We are at a crossroads. We can either continue to incentivize McMansions eating up agricultural lands, forever changing the Montana landscape while the super-rich use our state as their playground, or we can encourage responsible development in existing communities that make it possible for our children to live here and for our elderly population to age in place.

Judge Salvagni’s irresponsible decision is an affront to our Montana values and should not be allowed to stand.

Among the 14 signatories, those from western Montana are:

Sen. Greg Hertz, R-Polson, the sponsor of SB 528 

Former Rep. Danny Tenenbaum, a Democrat from Missoula 

Adam Hertz, a member of the Governor’s Housing Task Force from Missoula 

Sen. Jason Ellsworth, R-Hamilton, President of the Montana Senate