Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Tackling the rising cost of housing in Montana together

by Jon Tester
| April 27, 2024 12:00 AM

More than 100 years ago, my grandparents made a life for our family on a homesteaded plot of land outside of Big Sandy that we still farm to this day. I’ve been blessed to call Montana home my entire life and to always have a place to rest my head after a hard day’s work. Unfortunately, finding an affordable place to live has become a challenge for far too many Montanans.

As I travel across Montana, I hear about how housing challenges are hurting working families. From Missoula to Kalispell to Bozeman, all the way to smaller communities like my hometown of Big Sandy, folks are struggling with rising costs and a shortage of affordable, accessible housing options. Across the state home prices are more than 70 percent higher today than they were just five years ago.

The issue of housing affordability impacts every Montanan. I’ve heard from seniors who worked hard and saved up their whole lives, but are now struggling with skyrocketing property taxes on the homes they have lived in for decades and raised their families in. We have hospitals and schools across our state that are unable to recruit workers because there is nowhere for our teachers, nurses, or even doctors to live. And young Montanans who want to build a family and a life in their hometowns aren’t able to afford to buy a home like their parents did, or to rent a place large enough to start a family.

It’s high time to address this issue so that we can make sure our state remains the Last Best Place for everyone who wants to put down roots here, not just for wealthy outsiders and those who can afford it.

That’s why I’ve worked with Republicans to introduce bipartisan legislation like my Rural Housing Service Reform Act and my PRICE Act, commonsense bills that would revitalize Montana’s affordable housing supply, improve federal rural housing programs, cut government red tape, and increase housing options for Montana families. And it’s why I recently rolled out a bipartisan bill to speed up the appraisal process across Montana so that we can help get more families in homes quicker.

I’m also fighting to make sure that Montana veterans and their families won’t have to worry about keeping a roof over their heads. In November, I demanded that the Biden Administration take immediate action to protect thousands of veterans and servicemembers using VA home loans who were facing foreclosure through no fault of their own. I’m proud that the VA answered my call by stopping these foreclosures, and I’ll continue to hold the Department accountable as it works to deliver a long-term solution.

There is also work that desperately needs to get done at the state level to help tackle our housing challenges. Rising property taxes that are hitting hard-working Montanans in their wallets must be addressed, and expanding veterans’ cottages in cities like Butte are critical projects that deserve complete support and funding. I hope that our state’s leaders will join me in looking for ways to bring down housing costs for working families and not give handouts and tax-breaks to the ultra-wealthy.

The Homestead Act that afforded my grandparents the opportunity to farm up in Big Sandy more than a century ago is proof that Congress can play a commonsense role in ensuring that any hardworking Montana family can afford to live in the towns they were raised in -- which is so important to our Montana way of life. 

That’s why I’ll continue to do all I can in Washington to help lower costs and boost housing supply across our state. Montana is the greatest state in the greatest country in the world, and together we can make sure future generations can continue to call the Last Best Place home.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, lives in Big Sandy.