Affordable and Accessible Housing Plan for Montanans

The Problem

Pyramid Mountain Lumber is closing.
Sheriff deputies are living in campers.
Teachers share rooms in houses.
Seniors can't find nursing homes – they have nowhere to go. 
Families in trailer parks are being evicted from the only homes they’ve known.

Each of these stories is due to the lack of housing in our state that is affecting hard working Montanans everywhere. 

Meanwhile, nearly half the houses in Granite and Madison county are vacant. Whitefish has at least 15% of its housing used as short-term rentals.

Montana’s families are being priced out of Montana. The median price for a house in Gallatin County is $725k, in Flathead County it’s $630k. That doesn’t work when you’re a teacher making $35k a year. Our small business owners, lumber mills, and schools can’t find employees and our workers – electricians, teachers, firefighters, nurses, carpenters, and sheriff deputies – can’t find a place to live. Even when small businesses pay good wages and include insurance, and workers make good money - $25/hour and up to $80,000 a year – people either can’t even find a place that is available, or what is available is unaffordable. 

The growth that our state has experienced over the last few years is unprecedented. While city and county officials are grappling with implementing real solutions, working with public and private housing groups, our elected representatives in Helena and Washington have put the interests of wealthy out-of-state corporations and the profits of hedge funds first, while forcing working Montanans to pay the price.

The Plan

Having traveled tens of thousands of miles in my minivan, and connected with Montanans in all 16 counties of this western District and both Tribal Nations, the immediate issue we need to solve is housing. The federal government is deeply involved in housing finance along multiple dimensions. Taking the lessons from the people of western Montana with me, I will be a partner at the federal level to continue and scale the work that is happening now at the local and county levels, in both the public and private sectors:

  1. Start with an assessment of the housing supply and demand;

  2. Hold bad actors accountable where it is decreasing supply and increasing prices; and

  3. Make building, renting, or owning a house more affordable.

To correct the high price of housing across western Montana, there must be a correct assessment of the problem. Any starting point recognizes the ongoing creative work in our communities to address the challenges we face in housing, infrastructure, fiscal policy, and disaster preparation. But our local communities need federal partners willing to address the problem with common sense solutions.

There is not a one-size fits-all solution to the housing crisis, but an important step is to hold bad actors accountable. We must crack down on out-of-state investors using houses to make money, rather than as a place for people to live in and call home. We see this in the increase of short-term rentals across Montana, private equity purchases of nursing homes and trailer parks, pushing out current residents and driving up prices; and the corporate purchases of Montana lands that end up closing off public access to public lands.

To address affordability we need to loosen supply by ensuring that houses are treated as homes where people who live in a community go to sleep and eat and play, not as investment vehicles for foreign and out-of-state profiteers to turn a fast buck. On the other side, solutions include redefining area median income to allow local flexibility, allowing mortgage assumptions to offset high interest rates, fully funding existing programs that give rent relief and support first time homebuyers, and using tax credits to offset high land and labor costs so more housing can come online that can be attained by working families. In addition, the federal government should work with local and county governments to pursue common sense building regulations that address transport, infrastructure, and zoning.

In implementing a plan to address the housing crisis in Montana, I will bring people together to implement at scale the solutions that are working and find common threads in what is needed regionally. In Congress, I will represent our home – Montana – and I plan to start by listening.

Let’s get to work.

Monica Tranel
Candidate for Montana’s 1st Congressional District

Click here to read Monica Tranel's full, detailed housing plan for Montana