As we cross the midway point of the 2023 Legislative session I wanted to share a few of the bills I have testified on at the legislature either in Helena or via Zoom. This has been an interesting session, with a few opportunities to share my thoughts on some housing issues as well as a few professional industry and consumer protection bills as well. Like any pragmatic process, there are times I agree with sectors of the housing profession on an issue and times that I do not. Feel free to reach out with any questions.
I have testified in SUPPORT of these bills:
SB 382 - This is a bill to significantly updated and modernize the Montana Land Use and Planning Act, giving cities like Missoula the ability to have comprehensive public planning processes and rely on those adopted plans to provide more predictability and consistency in administrative reviews of land use. I have been adjacent to the public and private working group that came together over the last three years to brainstorm a better way to do this work in Montana and I was excited to speak on it in front of the Senate Local Government Committee.
HB 415 - This bill is consumer protection related to proper disclosure and education around septic systems upon the sale of a home. There can be a large difference between a property served by a traditional sewer and one served by a septic system, and I feel it is reasonable that a seller should be expected to disclose if the property is connected to a septic and if there are any known issues. I was asked by several parties to speak on this bill due to my experience in the housing world and I was happy to do so.
HB 465 - The state currently puts limitations on how fees collected when a resident or business applies for a building permit can be used which at times can delay the process because there is more involved in approving a building permit than just building code sufficiency, including plan review and zoning compliance. Giving cities such as Missoula the flexibility to cover the approval process with the fee should create more efficiency in permit approval and make it clear to the public that their fee covers the whole process.
HB 429 - HB 429 was a bill to protect tenants in a manufactured home park by granting them a window to make or match an offer when their court is put up for sale. The reality is that moving a trailer is not as easy as it is made out to be, and the number of places in town or close to town is ever dwindling. This is not to say that there are not times when a different use may not serve the community as well, however, giving the residents the opportunity to organize and buy their park is something I think is reasonable, and the way this bill was written, fairly limited impact on an eventual sale if the residents can’t put an offer together. I was on the opposite side of this issue than some traditional housing groups such as the Montana Association of Realtors because there are times we agree and times we do not and I chose to advocate for some of Montana’s more vulnerable on this issue.
HB 296 - This is a consumer protection bill I have been working on for a couple of years and is long overdue in Montana. Currently, we are one of only a handful of states that does not require an individual selling their property to provide written disclosure of any known issues. This change would bring Montana in line with standards of practice across most of the country and give residents of Montana and our friends and neighbors consistent expectations on what to expect during the process of buying or selling a home.
HB 615 - In a previous session I advocated for a more stringent state policy requiring all individuals holding a real estate broker or salesperson license to carry Errors and Ommissions insurance which was successful and is now law. This cleanup gives flexibility to offices and firms to select the best policy that works for them while providing certified proof of ability to pay larger deductibles.
HB 819 - Infrastructure development and planning expenses can be some of the largest barriers to housing across the spectrum being developed in Missoula and communities across Montana. This bill seeks to give communities grant opportunities for infrastructure directly related to housing development and land use planning that guides community growth.
HB 829 - This has been a multi-session effort to create a tax credit for Workforce Housing development. A coalition of public, private, and non-profit groups have advocated for this as an expansion of potential opportunities to create housing that Missoulians and Montanans can afford. Over 40% of renters in Missoula are spending more than 30% of their income on housing costs and potential projects utilizing these credits will be income qualified to assure they help some of our most at-risk and vulnerable neighbors. This development helps the housing market as a whole, both rental and ownership opportunities by taking pressure off the low inventory we continuously experience.
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