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How to create affordable housing through the free market
Montanans are facing a housing crisis. Gone are the days of our parents when they could begin their jobs right out of school and buy a home for $60,000. While the US housing market is experiencing inflation in housing costs, Montana home price increases far exceed the national average. The reason for this is that it is too difficult for builders to build enough homes to keep the price under control.
We need affordable housing through abundant housing. Montana has one of the lowest population densities in the United States with vast amounts of buildable land. Yet, the government is making it impossible to build enough homes for our neighbors by infringing on our private property rights.
According to the Frontier Institute, over 70% of primarily residential areas in Montana’s most in-demand communities outright prohibit or penalize affordable multi-family housing development. Among all the cities assessed in the Montana Zoning Atlas report, two-family housing is welcomed without Minimum Lot Area penalties on just 29% of primary residential land. In comparison, 3+ housing is welcomed by only 8%.
We need policymakers to enact pro-housing reforms to make Montana cities more welcoming for all Montanans to live and work!
Americans for Prosperity –Montana (AFP-MT) works to solve Montana’s most significant social problems by breaking the government barriers that get in the way of free people helping each other and themselves. One of the biggest problems right now in Montana is the cost of housing, property taxes, and rent. By eliminating the barriers to supply that prevent people from transforming their property in mutually beneficial ways to help themselves and others, we can create abundance and, thus, affordable housing through the market process. Price increases result when there are too many dollars chasing too few goods, the ONLY solution is to allow more goods, in this case housing units, to be created.
Before the 1960s, only the east and west coasts were heavily zoned like all private land is today. Before LBJ’s “urban renewal” grants (part of the “great society” reforms), which incentivized local governments through federal money to adopt zoning regimes, every major city in America was built using the private property-market process.
As demonstrated by the growth of California-style zoning to the middle of the country, we can look to our neighbors out west for our future if we continue down the path of central planning our cities. Zoning costs include the soaring prices we have seen a spike in Montana since 2020 but have been growing since the mid-2000s. As seen in California, urban sprawl, pollution problems, and a lack of organic neighborhoods, mixed-use, old, and new buildings nearby each other are some of the other unintended consequences of government planning in land use.
AFP’s endorsed legislation does not change private contracts; it only reforms public policy surrounding zoning for cities with a population greater than 5,000 and 50,000.
There is no doubt city governments will need to plan differently, assuming more in-fill in our cities as they can no longer outsource the cost of building new developments out of town to developers and those landowners. But this is what our property taxes are for, paying for the maintenance and upkeep of public goods that are in common use.
Minimum lot sizes act as an unofficial single-family zone when they restrain the size of lots. Some countries have no minimum lot sizes; for example, Lewis and Clark’s County.
Every generation makes a promise to the next to give them a world better than the one we inherited. If we continue the path we are on, this generational contract will be broken. Millennials, for example, make more money (inflation-adjusted) than their parents at the same age but have access to far less capital (such as a house) to lean on. The prospects are even worse for Gen-Z, who cannot afford to live outside their parent’s homes until their mid-20s.
Because of the extremely high demand to live in Montana, it is more likely to make the increase in prices slow down overall. This also means price increases on your property taxes will also slow down. It also means more re-development in our downtown city areas. In these more mixed neighborhoods, young families live close to retirees. It could mean less traffic as people move to downtown areas and less burden on public transit demands.
It will slow down urban sprawl persevering traditional agricultural industries and public access routes to public land.
Do you want a Montana our children can afford to live in, or do you want to be like California?
Do you have a higher right to someone else’s property rights than they do to their own? You don’t have a higher claim to someone else’s property than they do
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