During the 2019 Legislative session, several bills that would increase access to affordable housing for Montanans attracted significant support and interest. There were two primary pieces of legislation that MBPC supported, House Bill 16 and Senate Bill 18, related to funding the construction and preservation of low- and moderate- income housing.
- HB 16 will direct $15 million from the permanent Coal Tax Trust Fund to create a loan program for low- and moderate-income multifamily housing developments. This program is targeted towards smaller-scale projects in rural communities, which often go unfunded because developments in rural areas tend to be more expensive to build and maintain, and house fewer residents compared to larger communities. HB 16 successfully passed the legislature and was signed into law on May 10, 2019. It will be a critical resource to overcoming the shortfall in supply of the affordable housing needs in Montana.
- SB 18 would have established program providing a state tax credit to investors in qualified affordable housing production and preservation. It was designed to match with the federal low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) program. Given the high cost of construction, long-term rent, and income limitations attached to low-income housing property, developers rely on tax credits to make affordable housing projects pencil out. However, the amount of federal LIHTC is does not meet Montana’s current demand for low-income housing and each year the Montana Board of Housing can only fund about 25% of multifamily rental home projects due to lack of funds. SB 18 garnered bipartisan support, but it was voted down on the Senate floor after being blasted out of committee.
MBPC was among the proponents who provided testimony in support of SB 18 in the Senate Committee on Taxation and provided committee members with county-level fact sheets from MBPC’s interactive housing map, which highlight housing needs in their respective communities. Although SB 18 did not pass, the bill advanced far into legislative process.
The impact of Montana’s 66th Legislative Session goes beyond the number of housing bills that passed. Affordable housing is a more robust part of the policy conversation, and there is momentum to take action. As the housing challenges that face everyday Montanans gain more attention at the state level, we expect future legislative bodies to prioritize housing solutions.